I’m not sure how many days in a row I’m going to be posting on this. Maybe just three.
For years I kept to the reading schedule in the back of my Bible. So I know that I repeatedly had the same reaction to these verses every February 10, which was that most Christians don’t take charity seriously, even with Matthew 25: 46 predicting eternal punishment for those who neglect the needy. There were other reminders, but I know that this one came at least once a year, and I never found a very effective way to get past this contradiction. I wrote some about it. Those who already had my view said some kind things about that. Others simply denied the problem.
Now I find myself focusing on just how sure I am that this is a problem, how something comes up everyday to make me so sure, how the causes of this problem are symptomatic of something much greater, even cosmic in scope, whether or not Matthew 25: 46 is accurate about the consequences of the problem, and how I’ve been resisting telling everything I know about this, because it seems hopeless and upsets me. People don’t even like reading about the easiest part of this, that Jesus is in the needy. They want Jesus up on that throne, saying, “we’re right and you’re wrong,” just like they do. Only if they could get past so much propaganda, they might realize they’re not ready for that at all.
Why now? As I wrote yesterday, something about this client’s plight set me off, igniting things leftover from other clients. Where are all these people who say they’re here to follow God? Where are they for what people actually need instead of so many power trips and ego trips? Then also I’ve been running into some typical anti-abortion propaganda in searching through blogs. I’ve heard the same thing for 33 years, over and over again, the same flawed and simplistic slogans, with whatever people come up with to pretend such ideas are unassailable. This is what God wants? That’s not what He says to me. I think I’ll focus on that part tomorrow.
For now, I’m going to focus on how people think it’s nice that I volunteer for the needy, but not many people have any idea how much God is involved with that. Instead it seems they think God is leading this culture war that people want to fight against abortion, homosexuality and evolution. Why? If God were leading a war, why would there be so little movement in it, just so much shouting of slogans?
All my adult life, I have helped people, first in my profession, then in volunteer work. I was going to be a research scientist until experience taught me that I was better with people than research. It didn’t seem like some profound calling. I just enjoyed doing what I was better at doing. There were also more women around that way, including the mother of my daughters.
Helping people day after day changed me, though. My life was no longer a matter of personal performance. There was love. I doubt I could have said it that simply then, but that was the thing that has grown and grown and dominates my life.
I don’t know if it’s better to say this love started from patients in their dependency on me or if it was first drawn out of me in response to people needing me, being willing to be intimate with me, to trust me. My children came along at the same time, and it was the same thing with them. Who loved whom first? With babies it’s so hard to say that they have anything beyond pure dependency, but if that draws out truly selfless love in a parent, maybe it’s best not to get too picky about making distinctions.
Some people try to see love and dependency as mutually exclusive. They might see the purest love as unconditional love from God, whom they see as not dependent on us in any way. Yet is even unconditional love at a distance a great love? Or is it love between two beings who have many dependencies on each other, maybe not for existence or identity, but to be at their best? One can have such dependencies without much love at all, but when there is truly selfless, committed, unconditional love as well as the dependencies, people are knitted together so much more powerfully. I’ve never seen that in human beings as much as I see it between God and me, over the last 20 years, maybe more.
I don’t know how to tell that story. I lived it, but life isn’t even faithfully portrayed in movies. How can words alone manage? I’d rather God tell it, if She can. Traditional Christianity has elements of that story, about father and son, about redemption, about marriage, but people get lost in translating those metaphors to this life.
I think that the best I could do would be to talk about why Jesus is in the needy, why God helps people, what is all this love about. Only I’d be speculating about so many details. God says it’s not a story for today. But if you want to get a little closer to understanding God’s love, start helping people. That’s not the only reason to do that. I touched on that before in writing “Why should I care?” in June. There are many reasons. One of them is to learn about why love is the ultimate goodness that it is. One is that God wants you to care. There are more.
Helping people is not just being nice. It is vital. And if Matthew 25: 46 is accurate, it’s much more than that. Why don’t people understand that? Many who say they believe the Bible don’t act like it on this one. And to tell them God is love is begging to be misunderstood even more. Love is not just being nice. Love can be a mother viciously and relentlessly protecting her young, sacrificing her life if need be, sacrificing His life if need be, killing her children if need be, killing His out of His love for others, even His love for those whose death is just being prolonged. I don’t think most people have any idea how far love can go. They’re too busy with lesser things. Love is not a little thing. Love is not a liberal thing.
God is love, not love as any human being imperfectly says love is, but as the real God is, whoever and whatever He is. He is His own prophet. People who fight God in favor of their idols have no idea what they’re up against. Yet God has already warned them. It is amazing to watch, as tragic as it can be.