The Lamp Shines On The Just and The Unjust
I was reading from the late Fr. Anthony De Mello's excellent little book The Way To Love today, and I came across something that struck me right to the core.
I ended up re-reading the passage again several times, feeling more and more convicted with each reading, and I knew that I needed to reflect on it and share what I was thinking.
Fr. Anthony was talking about the nature of Love, and how we can go about actually loving everyone as Jesus commanded us to do. It all started with a simple analogy...
A lamp doesn't turn off when a "wicked" person walks toward it. A tree doesn't withdraw its shade from someone--even when that person is there to cut the tree down. In the same way, Love doesn't withdraw from people on a whim or even if they refuse to acknowledge Love.
In other words, if we claim to be followers of Jesus, and desire to be the kind of people that actually emulate the love of Christ to the world----we need to be indiscriminate with how we show that love.
To do this, Fr. Anthony argues that we need to change the way we see one another. And more specifically, we need to stop demonizing those with whom we find disagreement---even when the disagreements are deep.
This is a lot harder than it sounds, obviously. But the way forward is found in what Fr. Anthony refers to as "letting go of the attachment" of wanting to place people in categories that aren't helpful---categories that keep us at arm's length from them.
This is what he wrote:
Observe the marvelous change that comes over you the moment you stop seeing people as good and bad, as saints and sinners, and begin to see them as unaware and ignorant.
Now at face value, that might sound a bit patronizing, but Fr. Anthony defines "unaware" and "ignorant" in a way that isn't entirely negative. Essentially, he exhorts us to see even those people who are clearly behaving in destructive ways in a grace-filled way.
He asserts that instead of demonizing them and placing them in a no-win kind of category, we should see them in their full humanity, and assume that there is more to their story.
We should assume, Fr. Anthony posits, that if they were given the chance, and if they were able to let go of their own attachments, these people would do the right things, and live more completely into their truest and best selves. At the moment, it might seem as if they will never get there, but Fr. Anthony exhorts us to live in the hope of that possibility.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to love without distinction, just as Jesus did. And the kind of love that we are talking about here is the kind of love that doesn't keep score, is no respecter of persons, and offers light to everyone.
Fr. Anthony ends the discussion like this:
Love simply is, it has no object.
I find this so convicting and challenging. It is far easier to go the route of categories and demonizing---to assume the worst about those who seem to act their worst.
But if we are to be the kinds of people God longs for us to be, we have to plot a new course.
May you have opportunities today to simply love. May you look more gently and kindly on those with whom you disagree, and let them see grace. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.