Perhaps it is the coming of winter that causes moments of reflection. Or the new journal I use to record my thoughts. Or the writer in me who MUST write in order to process life. Whatever the origin, my reflection turns to a time-honored quote.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge reminds us how the Jews honored the name of God. They would not purposely step on a piece of paper, in case it contained the name Yahweh. He suggests we should apply this practice to how we treat others.
“Trample not on anyone. There may be some work of grace there, that thou knowest not of. The name of God may be written upon that soul thou treadest on. It may be a soul that Christ thought so much of as to give his precious blood for it. Therefore, despise it not.”
This not trampling on anyone sounds like an easy goal. A worthy purpose. Yet when I see the blatant evil perpetrated by some, it seems impossible.
How can I love every soul, no matter what they choose to do? How can I honor the second commandment of Jesus, to love others as I love myself?
- Even the evil ruler who is bombing the life out of the citizens of Ukraine, for no other reason than to garner for himself the trophy of another country?
- Even the knife-wielding radical who stole the eye from a courageous author who dared to confront the inequities of his religion?
- Even the abuser who torments a puppy, then kicks it out onto the street?
- Even the man who threatens his wife and children, using his second amendment rights to weaponize their home?
- Even the religious leader who uses his bully pulpit as a tool for control?
- Even the woman who allowed her boyfriend to kill their child in one of our Kansas City neighborhoods?
- Even the murderers of 14 year-old Emmett Till?
- Even me and the self-righteousness legalism fostered in me?
When I cannot do anything about these horrors, how do I respond? How can I pray? And how do I live in these perilous times to make sure my home is safe yet offer grace to others?
I flip the page on my journal, still not satisfied with how the processing of this question is going. For such a quandary, there surely is no easy answer. For all sin is the practice of ignoring God, and all of us have been guilty.
Some of us just hide it better than others.
Were it not for grace, any of us could be included in the above bullet list. The giving of grace seems so easy for Almighty God who loves unconditionally. Yet it did cost the life of his Son. No easy road there.
And I admit I am still learning how to receive and gift this same costly grace.
What will it cost me to release my stereotypes of these people who choose evil? Will it be to remember that trauma often begets trauma, that evil can multiply through the generations? That people who are raised without knowing the love of God will therefore act like satan?
When did it become my responsibility to judge another? Never. Not even when it became personal to my family, to my soul.
For if Christ died for me, he also died for these others who choose to ignore his grace. And his infinite patience is somehow allowing them the time to make another choice, to open their souls to his healing grace.
It is in the patience of the timing that I am stuck. When, God, when?
So although I find no answers, I will choose to live each day trusting the One who knows not only the answers but all the relatable questions.
And I will embrace the backward living suggested by Father Richard Rohr. That instead of trying to think my way into a new way of living, I should instead live myself into a new way of thinking.
Have mercy on us, oh God.
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Uploading Faith addresses such reflective questions, especially for those who seek answers.