Yesterday I came to the end of a long-drawn, frustrating saga and finally got the thing I’d been wanting. I felt so happy! elated! bouncing with joy! and yet…
People have sometimes called me kind, caring, compassionate – but how much do I really care about other people and their needs, their pain, their long-drawn frustrating sagas? Do I cry for others on the same level as I cried when things went wrong again for me? It does sometimes happen, but rarely – it’s not my 24/7 default setting, it’s not how I am all the time for everyone.
Kindness and compassion – when I see them or hear about examples, I’m always deeply moved. Why? and why do people bother telling me that they think I’m kind and caring? why do we notice these things, make a big deal out of them when they happen?
We wouldn’t if they were the norm.
Sure, we’d like to live in a world where kindness is the norm. A world of “love thy neighbour as you love yourself” sounds wonderful… When we see cruelty, we dream of a world without that, a world where people care about each other, put others’ needs first, show love and compassion to anyone who’s hurting – and then some driver cuts us on the road or a work colleague says something hurtful or someone pushes past us in the supermarket queue or… one of a million things that people do which make us angry… and we lash out…
I did this myself only three days ago. Caring, kind, compassionate? Sometimes I am, but a friend did something that upset me deeply and I lashed out in anger.
The reason I’m saying all this? Because it’s important to be real about this stuff, to recognise that we are none of us perfectly loving, and that by not being perfectly loving to every human being 24/7 we are breaking God’s command: love your fellow human as you love yourself.
Instead of acknowledging this, what do we do most of the time? We pat ourselves and each other on the back for the little bits of kindness and compassion that we do exercise now and again, we tell each other that we’re kind and compassionate and caring just because we’re maybe a bit more caring than some… We look at that other person who is so vile and who abuses their children or their wife or the person who rapes or murders or whatever and we compare ourselves to them and pat ourselves on the back: I’m not like that, I’m a good person… And then we swear at the next person who annoys us – good person? nope. None of us really are. Not 100%. Not 24/7. Not in absolutely every situation. No. I’m not a good person, and neither are you. We may be less evil than some, but we do not live up to God’s standards.
And it’s not like he’s sitting there, high and mighty and detached, judging us from a distance – no, he actually gave us a real live example of what “love thy neighbour as you love yourself” looks like: painful, messy, excruciating. Jesus on the cross – that’s what God’s love looks like.
And it’s because of that love that I’m writing all this – because if you haven’t received it yet, then you need to know. You need the full picture: the picture of yourself as a sinner who does not show love and compassion to absolutely everyone 24/7, much as you’d like to think of yourself as a good person; and the picture of Jesus dying on that cross as an atoning sacrifice for all of humanity, so that anyone – I repeat: anyone – who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life; and the picture of Jesus rising from the dead on the third day, because being God he is lord over even death itself!
The bad news is we are none of us totally good, and we all deserve God’s judgement. And God’s judgement is a terrible thing.
The good news is that God loves us and sent his only begotten Son to take on the punishment we all deserve so that we won’t have to.
We can all know God’s love, his totally undeserved grace is available to all – but we can come to him only on his terms, and his terms are simply: put your faith in Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life.