We cannot understand love if we do not face the depth of evil in and around us.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of GOD.”
The standard way to translate this is: “You’re a dirty sinner and you’re gonna go to hell! Stop drinkin’ the whiskey so you can be saved!” Which, of course, is stupid on a level that will make blood shoot out of your eyes.
But what does it mean then?
This passage holds the key to everything. It is a many faceted gem that you can peer into from different angles and see different attributes. First, the low-hanging fruit: yes, we are all dirty sinners. But, if I stop (or even linger) there, I miss everything that is wonderful about this passage. All of its beauty and love is drained into the equivalent of a blood pit at the slaughter house.
But what does it mean?!?!?
It means: We are all equal.
Everyone who has ever lived – from the beginning of time and until the end – is equal in every respect. No one can claim a status other than “worthless” by any measure. To attempt other than this is to do the work of rendering yourself “worthless” (because your estimation will come to a final conclusion within 80-120 years…if not sooner). To estimate the usefulness of another is to kill them, in your mind…along with any hope within yourself of contributing to them in any way:
- They are my peer – they don’t deserve my help.
- They are beneath me – helping them is wasting resources on the worthless OR it could make me look/feel good (i.e. what do I get out of it?).
- They are above me – they don’t need my help, they are capable on their own OR if I help them, they might give me something (again, what do I get out of it?).
Without equality, life is reduced to a grand pageant of strippers and customers at a seedy establishment on the wrong side of town: Everyone is either on their way up or down from their inebriants. Everyone is seeking to make use of the other. Everyone is making excuses why their behavior is OK.
If we are equal, our actions become the embodiment of compassion and love for everyone around us.
Because, we aren’t trying to gain anything. The success or failure of our actions will cause no pain or harm, the best outcome is joy and the worst outcome is hope. No one loses (though, that is a poor reason to do anything…we’ll come back to this later).
But it cost my time and my money. Who are you to tell me how to use my resources?
That is an artificial premise – a “straw man” argument. I’m not telling you to do anything. If you weren’t so arrogant and self-centered, you wouldn’t see it that way, anyway. If you considered yourself truly equal with those around you, their suffering would be your suffering. You wouldn’t perch on the tiny hill of your momentary triumph with your middle finger extended at those behind you.
I have said this before: loving and compassionate help does not always mean money, but it almost always means time. We are funny about our time: we’ll run home to watch a reality show about people who are hurting or suffering, but we won’t “waste” the time to help people who are hurting or suffering. Weird.
The “no one loses” argument is vapid. Pascal’s Wager is a pathetic reason to do anything.
You are correct. It is intellectually vacant to “believe because you ain’t got nothin’ to lose!” In truth, believing means nothing and carries no equivalence with faith. Ignorant people have been coned into assuming that Pascal’s Wager is real, but it is not. Faith (and love) are not arbitrary things that you play with when you feel like it and abandon when you are bored. Faith is only borne out when things are tough. Love is reduced to lust or a lie if it can’t withstand a storm.
So, you were trying to mislead me?
No, you are misleading yourself. This is about perspective: If we don’t grant equality to everyone, then yes, love is brutally expensive because we have converted it into slavery or pity. If everyone is equal then the cost is not a burden. Yes, love will cost us something. It will cost more than money and time. Love takes a piece of us that we’ll will never get back. But, if we keep that “piece” it will only become rancid and turn us bitter. And, you know I’m right.
If we are equal, then we have a gift worth sharing. If we are equal, then the only priority in life is to bring love to those around us. If we are not equal, then my assertions make no sense.
When Jesus entered the world, He didn’t look around and ask, “Who’s responsible?” No, He came here solely to take responsibility on our behalf. We are equal in the eyes of our creator and He demonstrates no partiality to anyone, for any reason: not color, not economy, and certainly not guilt. He loves us. He loves you by name.
“Joy” is taking this truth to everyone and regarding them as worthy of Jesus’ love.
Whatever dude…that’s not my job.
Look, this isn’t a multiple choice test with a bunch of right answers. We either keep ourselves as the center of the universe and devalue those around us (in which case you’d be right, from that perspective it isn’t your job to do anything). Or, we can accept that we are no better and no worse than anyone else (in which case you’d be horribly wrong, it is your only job). We can choose not to see it this way, but we will then lead a life bereft of joy. Granted, we might get a glimpse of happiness occasionally, but that will not sustain us. Happiness fades or turns into something we don’t recognize (statistically speaking, marriage equals divorce).
You mean that broken people get a “pass” and should sit around and wait for a hand-out?
Oh, help me. Is it not possible for you to take what I say at face value? Listen, this means everyone. We are all granted value in His work. We may all find joy in His work. Though, as an aside, we are all equally likely to disregard His work. The truth is the same for everyone. There is no greater expression of love than Jesus’ suffering and death for us. That sacrifice is the sole source of hope. Bringing that hope to everyone you meet is the only true source of joy.
You’re kidding right? No one can live like that! People will take advantage of me…people will try to hurt me…I don’t trust anyone enough to let my guard down like that.
Finally! Whew. I never thought we’d get here. You’re completely correct:
People will try to hurt you.
People will take advantage of you.
People will reject you.
You will become the object of scorn.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
We are all equal. Our only work is to share our lives with one another so that we may teach and preach the Gospel to one another. It isn’t easy or safe…and sometimes it won’t be fun.
Who have you placed beneath you? Who is it that you feed upon?