“The absolutely unpardonable thing was not (Jesus’) concern for the sick, the cripples, the lepers, the possessed… not even for his partisanship for the poor, humble people. The real trouble was that He got involved with real moral failures, with obviously irreligious and immoral people: people morally and politically suspect, so many dubious, obscure, abandoned, hopeless types, on the fringe of every society. This was the real scandal. Did He really have to go so far? This attitude in practice is notably different from the general behavior of religious people.” – Hans Küng
“Come unto me all you who are weary and I will give you rest.” – Words of the Father, through the Son; calling people to come and know salvation and the regeneration of their souls in the God of the Ages. The Lord has understood the basic need of humanity: relief from circumstances which they can’t conquer on their own. Unfortunately, we have re-orchestrated the unconditional gifts of the Father to be new in the subjective nature of the conditional and intentional. As a result, we know compassion, which has a number of publically acknowledged forms, yet isolates its true power in lieu of mutual benefit. Instead of being confronted with tenderness which disarms and supports us, it becomes something we only dare with our innermost confidants. We also find the practice of mercy to be misconstrued for weakness and leniency is reconfigured as a loophole to be taken advantage of. In a culture of high importance placed in ladder jumping, name dropping, celebrity recognition, and social mobility; we find that the paradigm of others interests ahead of our own to be the highest conflict of interest within a society which demands its own way, or the highway. We see contributions made to others for the show of personal accolade. There is a view of commitment which is tempered by a subjective scale of immediate desire. We have become those whose lives are continually in demand; for attention, for approval, for association and for assimilation into a system of restless dependence on a consistently changing reality. And yet, we all retain a quiet longing for peace. We seek calm in moments of overwhelming details. We hope in the possibility of security and truth. The reality of our pursuit is for a rock solid purpose and fulfillment within that experience; a resource that can fuel the passionate center which we live out of. Fortunately for us, the Lord God knows every detail of the desires of our deepest hearts. He gave his Son with unmerited compassion and tenderness which turns the norms of society on their heads, and seeks to connect to the soul of the individual. He brings justice to the broken down, restoration to the lost, purpose for the aimless, and belonging to the disenfranchised.
As we see throughout the Bible, God opposes the proud, but gives his grace to the humble. We see a message of loving others practically, directly and authoritatively. He condemns the Pharisee and opens his arms to the penitent Tax-Collector. The extravagant love of the Father sees the corrupt heart of the malicious and angry and is broken with compassion as He understands their overwhelming need for love. Even in the flailing about in a lack of understanding, the stomping their feet down in objection, the vindictive actions based in a selfish perspective or even covered with the life-squelching arguments of cruelty in experience; the Lord extends his love to the multitudes and calls his people to follow his example. Second to the commitment of loving Him, the Lord of Hosts puts forth the charge to love people as He loves them. In this understanding of ourselves and those around us, we find the revolution of two millennia of societies which rallied to the call which was revealed to mankind in the first century, based on this radical idea of justification in lieu of love. Napoleon Bonaparte put it quite concisely, “I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.” In a world constantly changing for the sake of self-advancement, to meet a consistency held in love, tenderness and grace, thinking of the need of others ahead of one’s own, sounds fanatical, foolish and ludicrous. Yet in light of the comfort of true redemption, love and acceptance, exchanging true human connection for name dropped association is illuminated for the cheap value which is innate in its existence. The Lord understands that we long for rest. We long to cease hopping from one stone of truth to another, restlessly hoping that this remedy will fill the void once and for all, and find the Rock of Ages; He who holds us secure in love and truth.
This is the powerful interaction we offer to those around us: True connection, based in the transforming love of the Father who has transformed our hearts. We carry on the power of a Savior who did not come to pad the bank accounts of the successful, nor provide vacation getaways for the best managers of debt, time and relationships. The Messiah was brought to heal the sick. His unconditional love and acceptance is the abundant power of the broken, the humble and those who cry out within their finite misery to the infinite Lord God Almighty. This crazy idea of love befriends the unwanted; it comforts the uncomfortable and embraces the estranged. This scandalous mercy pardons the pastor’s vice, the murder’s bloody hand, the toddler’s little white lie and our covert pious nature in our disciplines of religious fervency. The glorious Lord has a love so deep and encompassing, that it finds each child where they are, pouring out his compassion on them amidst their need and wrapping them in his graceful arms as his adopted son or daughter. In this he put his creation above the life of his Son; sacrificing his only begotten for the restoration of his cherished people.
Paul called himself a wretched man, unrighteous and undeserving, yet his earned qualifications to boast were some of the highest in his society. He understood the call of Christ to embrace others in love, scandalously giving freely to the undeserved the soul saving blessing of the Master. The call of the self righteous Saul to become the meek and mighty Paul was a journey which took him from the heights of the Sanhedrin to the depths of Roman prisons. Much like if Steve Jobs quit his post at Apple and left all his stake holds in the company to ring a bell with a pail for the Salvation Army in front of a supermarket, or if the President of the US resigned and took his family to Skid Row to live in boxes and encourage the impoverished, or if the Provost of Harvard gave up his academic stature to serve food and wash dishes for his students in the cafeteria. These are the lunatic levels of societal bearing which reverse importance from powerful position and subjugation to service and vulnerability. Those who would retreat from the citadel of self right, and approach the throne of grace, those who would leave the seat of power and influence to humbly serve those in need; these are the people who will reap the riches of human investment and the rewards of love which can never be earned. This is the power of Christ in every knee which bows to Him and every tongue which confesses his Lordship; leaving the highest position to take the penalty of sin for an undeserving creation trapped within the consequences of their nature. He has inspired us to show love to the Tax-Collector, to embrace the Leper, to feed the orphans and to comfort the widows. For we are the beneficiaries of his love in that He found our hearts covered in the darkness of hidden sin and shame, and restored us to the presence of the Father. We are justified by his love. We are secure in his salvation. We are restored in his compassion and sustained in his mercy. We were lost and in situations beyond our control, but now we are found and under the grace of the Almighty God who is infinite and sovereign in his omnipotence. Let us echo that which we know from the Father to those around us in need. Let us take what we have learned in the light and shine brightly in a world covered in darkness. Let the purpose of Christ direct our steps everyday, that in this we may carry words of restoration on our lips and burdens of compassion in our hearts; that his extravagant and inspirational love might be that which all men know as their own.