“Nothing that we despise in the other man is entirely absent from ourselves. We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do and don’t do and more in the light of the way they suffer.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
You are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. You are of Christ and He is of the Father. There is a meter of acceptance from the Father which cannot be substituted by anyone or anything. There is a healthy ability to understand others when we come to know ourselves in the light of our human nature and the acceptance of us inclusive of that nature. Understanding our true place in Christ is essential in having the ability to emulate Him in our interactions with the communities around us. We are of Christ and He is of the Father. This is not an effort at self-realization; it is an acknowledgement of who He is and what that means about who we are. It is a discipline of understanding the heart of the Father in his view of us and his view of others. We come to know the nearness to God which we have in light of the work of Christ. The resonating truth is that in our failing, irresponsible, angry, sinful, humanity; Christ brought us close to his chest and said, “I love you.” “I love you despite the malady of your continual failure, inclusive of every part of who you are.” “I love you enough to sacrifice myself to bring you into community with the Father.” As one of my friends puts it, “He expects much more failure out of you than you do, and He loves you just as much on your worst day as He does on your best.”
This is the essence of his acceptance; Christ saw suffering in people and responded to them in love. They were unknowingly, or knowingly, flailing about in human misery and he came into the middle of their experience and cared for them. He did not ask for reform to precondition his love. He knew his love would transform those who knew it intimately. And as we identify with Him, we know that love begets love. In response in our own lives, we seek to understand this love more closely; to let it redefine how we see others and how we see ourselves. We are of Christ and He is of the Father. When we understand our own suffering and the comfort of belonging to one who unconditionally accepts, we can understand those we interact with in the compassionate lens of Christ. The reality of knowing that someone does not understand themselves in light of the acceptance of Christ should cause our hearts to ache and compassion to leak from our eyes. He is the transformer of lives and purpose. No earthly representation is as vivid as interacting with the person of Christ. Our knowing Him allows our hearts to view and respond to others in ways which Christ views them; for who they are – a love covered person for whom he came that they might know love and forgiveness. We see others in their suffering, their joy, their confusion, their need – and we respond. We do not bring their deficiencies or their accolade to our perception of how we treat them or understand them. We know them amidst their frail human condition, the same state which keeps us self-conscious, hopeful, afraid, stressed, angry, full of anxiety, proud, dismissive…etc. We know people as they are; personalities which disturb, annoy, or confuse others, and actions and alliances to that which others disagree with. But in as much as we know ourselves and our need for Christ’s love and acceptance, they are just as much in need as we are.
Christ has charged us to be his hands and feet in the kingdom of God. He has called us to be his arms, embracing one another when we are in need. Comfort the sick, feed the widows and the poor, listen to those in turmoil, pray for your enemies – This is the Christ who gave himself for your sustenance; how He lived and how He would have us live. He has called us to truly respond to others and interact in a significant manner rather than treating others like a social cigarette – there for you to get your fix, take a hit off of them on your terms, for your benefit, and then extinguish them when you’re satiated. We are called to be real with others. We are called to be real with ourselves. We are of Christ and He is of the Father. We must allow this to change our perceptions of ourselves: We are unworthy, but covered in love by the Almighty who longs for us to respond with love and compassion. We must allow Him to transform our hearts toward others: The burdens of humanity hold them as we are held, in a state of needing love and acceptance and longing for a fulfilling community which brings purpose to this life. This is the embodiment of fulfilling of the law and the prophets; loving Christ and loving others – knowing Him and knowing ourselves and others in light of who He is and what He has given us; community and significance.