Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Thought for Tuesday 16 December 2014

A pious and beloved but poorly dressed Chasidic rabbi took a lengthy train ride to teach Torah in a town far away. The well-to-do passenger seated next to him subjected him to insult and verbal abuse for most of the ride. When the train finally reached its destination, the rabbi was greeted at the station by thousands of excited disciples, anxious to learn at his feet. The disrespectful passenger looked mortified as he saw the scene unfold. "I'm so ashamed," he said. "I had no idea who you were. Please accept my apologies." The rabbi turned to him and said, "Don't apologize to me. Apologize to the anonymous nobody you sat next to on the train. When you insulted me, you did so because in your eyes, I was a nobody."
(Chasidic tale, adapted from Erica Brown's retelling)

“Whatever you do to the least of these, you do also to Me.” 

So says our Lord.  Isn’t it funny that a person’s appearance can (and often will) affect how we will treat them?  By their dress and demeanor and race, we make snap judgments all the time about the worthiness of a person and determine (too often) that such a person who is not up to our standards has no value and is not deserving of any semblance of human dignity.

We make these snap decisions all the time because we have been conditioned (rather than taught) to do so.  In part we do so for safety’s sake, but too often we do so for entirely the wrong reasons.  We too easily forget that Jesus taught us better so that when we do what we so easily do, we disappoint and perhaps anger the Very One who gave us the Life we often misuse and abuse; the same Life belonging to someone else we determine to have no real value, yet the same person for whom Jesus also died.

Let us remember that even those who have been sentenced to prison for the most heinous crimes still do, in the eyes of our Lord, have sacred value.  It is the same Divine Love our Lord extended at the Cross.  It is not a special kind of love reserved only for a few who choose to embrace it; it is the universal standard of Love extended to all of humanity irrespective of whether they will accept or reject it, whether they deserve it or not.  And that, dear friends, is the standard by which we are commanded to order our lives.  Anything less than our absolute best is not worthy of the title “Christian”.

We must reach deeper and try harder.  It is too easy to take our redemption for granted; and in doing so, we alienate so many who might otherwise find the nerve and the courage to join us on this remarkable journey we call “discipleship”.  It will all be worth it in the end.


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