Should We Love Everyone Or Just Those People We Deem Worthy?
Jesus was unpopular in his day. He was not the superstar many of us consider him to be now. He associated with and ministered to the prostitutes, tax collectors, criminals, and the poor. The wealthier Jews found Jesus contemptible and his followers detestable. Jesus served people without regard to their status. He did not engage in favoritism. It is safe to say that Jesus was not tolerant of the excuses and justifications made by the sinners of his day for their wrongdoings. However, after the Christ’s departure from this world, his name was venerated for his compassion and kindness to the sinners and to all living souls. In Matthew 25:35-40 we are told:
New International Version (NIV)
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
This is a profound message. For if we are to do as Jesus instructs us, we must show compassion to all humans regardless of their beliefs, attitudes, behavior, etc. Jesus did not make his love conditional on people’s willingness to conform to his expectations. If any person were to do today what Jesus did in his time, that person would be run out of town.
There are some church leaders and concerned citizens who minister to violent criminal offenders in prison. This is not a fashionable job. These selfless humanitarians are seldom acknowledged for their work in this area. Not everyone is meant to work with criminals. What I think we can all do is develop the understanding that even the most corrupt and immoral people are our brothers and sisters, including the criminals who have violated our most sacred rules. I would even risk saying that we should love those people who hate us for our beliefs and who tell we are wrong for thinking them. This is idea difficult to accept, but it is worthy of consideration.
I’m not certain that I can rightfully claim to be a true follower of Christ based on the standards set by our Christian leaders. Nonetheless I do recognize the value in the scripture of the Bible and the wisdom of the Christ’s teachings. Jesus was certainly an evolved being. As a master and teacher, he gave us much to consider as spiritual beings having a human experience.
Not long ago I became friends with a gentleman who had experienced his awakening while serving an eight year prison sentence. He told me it was his third felony offense and that he was facing the three strikes rule which would have put him away for life. My friend told me that he was considered one of the more feared inmates in his unit. He said that when he saw another inmate who appeared to have a “chip on his shoulder,” he would tell the inmate to come into his cell where they would “have it out.” I just want to get across the kind of person my friend was at that time of his life.
When I first met this man, I could not detect or read his former personality. He actually replaced his anger and bitterness, with a newer and more positive attitude which somehow pushed his former personality down so far that I could not sense it. One would never know that an enraged convict is part of this man’s history.
My friend told me that his awakening came after he had given deep thought to his situation. He finally came to the conclusion that he did not want to have the kind of experience he was having. He said that he was able to reform himself, because he had a deep desire to do so. His determination to change was the key to his awakening. He realized there was something more to life than he was experiencing in his small cell.
There was one particular experience my friend related me which struck me as a kind of revelation. He said that there was a sex offender in the cell next to his. My friend explained that he is very protective of children. At the time, all he could think of was inflicting physical pain to this pedophile. The marked man would walk nervously past my friend’s cell anticipating a thrashing. One day in the course of his awakening, my friend gazed upon the despised inmate and a strange sensation came over him. He no longer felt the overwhelming urge to cause injury to him. Rather my friend was surprised to find that he could only see the love in this man. He told me that rather than rushing to maim the sex offender, he only nodded his head at him, as the human soul walked past. This is a true life event of the kind rarely ever heard of in our society.
What I learned from this story is that we are not to condone the bad behavior of any person. At the same time, we are to love the soul of the person. This is true whether or not we see them as the most despicable creatures on Earth. All criminal behavior and misconduct from the mildest misdemeanor to the most heinous felony are offenses which victimize others and cannot be tolerated in our society. Still we are all brothers and sisters in spirit and should recognize the divine light in one another.
I realize this topic is not easy for crime victims. It’s an emotional matter. Please understand that there is no requirement to show kindness to a person who has harmed to you. Deciding to withhold love does not necessarily make a person spiritually empty. Taking such action may be required for emotional survival.
There are times when we become overly involved in a person’s dysfunction to our own detriment. This article is not about “soul saving,” which is a commendable undertaking, and risky. What I am talking about is a general appreciation for all members (particularly human members) of the Collective Consciousness, which some call God.
It was a great pleasure to cross paths with this man. After working as a legal support professional for many years, I wondered whether people with violent dispositions could ever make such a great leap in spiritual understanding. I think that in the back of mind I doubted it, although I hoped it was possible. It is not for me to judge the potential of people, but I am human like everyone else. I’ll use the American Pit Bull Terrier as a metaphor.
In many states and communities, citizens debate whether or not pit bulls should be labeled an aggressive breed. I rescued a one year old pit bull named Missy from the county animal control (the pound). Missy was perfectly obedient and somewhat submissive. One day, after being with me for several months, Missy bit me several times, leaving bruises and small bite marks. I am sure this misbehaved animal had been abused by its former owner. I tried to correct Missy’s bad habit with the help of professionals, but the biting did not stop. I surrendered her to a no-kill shelter in the hope that someone with better resources and skills could rehabilitate her. Remember, we cannot tolerate unacceptable behavior. Nonetheless, I do believe pit bulls make excellent canine companions if treated with love. I still think of Missy fondly from time to time.
By using my pit bull as a metaphor for the topic of this article, I hope my message is clear. This article is not an appeal for better treatment of sex offenders. In fact, it’s not about criminal misconduct. It’s about becoming aware of the divine spirit that exists within all of us. The message of this article is this: If we as individuals can recognize our spiritual connection with those who we mistakenly judge to be the lowest members of society, then we are capable of unconditional love for all that exists.