There is a vice that is difficult to resist. We are surrounded by those with whom we do not agree, with those who act differently, look differently, express themselves differently, and believe differently than we each do. What is your first reaction to people different from you? Or to those who hold deeply held values that run completely opposite of yours? Sadly, I almost always judge, and judge harshly. It is a never-ending struggle to accept them for who they are at their core.
Come As You Are. We all are different. No two experiences are the same. We do tend to drift towards those with whom we hold similar experiences and beliefs, and that’s natural socialization, but we need to have a more sophisticated view of the world. That is what it means to be human: to encounter the unknown and unfamiliar and find ways to incorporate it into our experience. Think of all the things we miss because we judge others. How about the mother with the out-of-control kids at the supermarket? Imagine the wealth of love she must possess to care for those children. Look at the abundance of energy that those children possess, and even though they are bouncing off the walls, try and see them curled up on the couch next to their mother while she reads to them. We are complex, very deep, emotional beings.
Be Who You Are. I know people who hold deeply conservative views that are in direct opposition to mine. I know people who deal with things in a far different manner than I do. It takes real effort every day to love them, but why wouldn’t I? They are lovely, caring people whose opinions and skills happen to be different from mine. Yes, we discuss things, and yes, it gets heated sometimes, but we want the best for each other. However, it is far too easy for me to lump those who share opinions that differ from mine all together as a non-specific mob and dismiss them as wrong. That does as much disservice to me as a thinking human being as it does to them. And yet, I too often fall into that easy habit. It is very easy to hate, to despise. But to love? That takes work.
To take this thought experiment in another direction, consider those we demonize regularly, and who demonize themselves with their actions: the fundamentalists who kill in the name of their twisted view of faith. These were once children, some still are children. They have followed their hatred downward into an evil place. How do we free them from their hatred? It is not easy to follow the example of love Jesus gave us. How can we possibly love someone who could commit unspeakable acts? I don’t know that it is possible within the confines of humanity, but it must be worth trying. If we do not, if we continue a cycle of hate upon hate, then we are truly doomed. We are left to be reborn as a species again and again only to consume ourselves. But how can I love someone who is filled with hate, whose actions are evil?
I imagine Jesus asking those questions as he prayed for His father to take the cup away from Him. Why did He need to suffer for these spiteful, hateful human beings? It was to give us hope. To teach us that love truly is the way. It is no coincidence that he distilled everything down to love – Love God, and Love Everyone. That’s it, that’s the answer. But what an impossibly high standard to achieve!