Lately we have all been inundated with people drawing lines between those we agree with and those whom we do not. During the acute stages of the recent Covid pandemic, there were people who embraced the practices of social distancing, wearing masks and getting vaccinated. At the other end of the spectrum were people who rejected these precautions. Demonstrations and protests broke out as people fought for their rights. We have seen the strong feelings about our last presidential election erupt into the Jan. 6 riot in our nation’s capitol. On an even larger scale we see the horrors of the war in the Ukraine. Sometimes it seems division is the rule of law. It creates chaos.
Contrast this with the commandment that Jesus gave to his disciples: Love one another as I have loved you. Having just relived the events of Holy Week, we come to realize what all Jesus endured as a measure of his love.
Not many of us would be up to what he went through. He was rejected by his fellow Jews. In fact, many of them plotted to kill him. He lost the loyalty of his closest disciples. Even when Peter professed that he would always be faithful, he denied Jesus three times. Jesus endured the stress of his upcoming arrest and crucifixion without much support. The disciples fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane when he asked them to stay awake with him and pray. Jesus endured the cruelest of punishments: crucifixion. All of this out of an all-encompassing love for all people.
By comparison, our love and loyalty to one another is often pretty fragile. We find it easy to pick and choose our friends by how closely they conform to our ideas and our wants and needs. If we are honest with ourselves, there are many times when we draw the line about who is acceptable and who should “get their act together.” We tend to associate more with people who see the world the way we do.
What brought this to mind was an article I read that listed 22 of Willie Nelson’s best quotes. Although not a dedicated country music fan, I am drawn to Willie Nelson. Here is a quote that stimulated my thinking about how we are to treat one another: “Anybody can be unhappy. We can all be hurt. You don’t have to be poor to need something or somebody. Rednecks, hippies, misfits-we’re all the same. Gay or straight? So what? It doesn’t matter to me. We have to be concerned about other people, regardless.”
The part of this quote that is so strong is the last statement: to be concerned about other people, regardless. What would happen if we stopped, took a moment to reflect and then, and only then, made decisions? What if we took the time and made the commitment to listen to others before we pass judgement? Maybe there is something to be learned from hearing the stories of those with whom we disagree.
Is this not the essence of what Jesus said and did for each of us? His commitment is to all people, in all circumstances.