Thanks for my free lunch…and more

I have a mushy memory from kindergarten about the little half-pint cartons of milk. I wanted to have milk at snack time like the other kids. If memory serves, Mrs. Knowles said, “I thought you didn’t like milk.” I’m guessing we hadn’t paid for it. She told me if I wanted milk, I needed to bring money to school with me. We had just moved to Kansas from Indiana and were living with my grandparents at the time. I went home and said I needed a nickel or whatever it was for my milk. It all got straightened out and I did not have to do without the rest of the year.

We were always poor when I was growing up so I have many memories of doing without. I learned to not ask for much, even things I needed. I remember doing without school supplies, like in the first grade when I didn’t have an eraser. I remember walking home looking at the ground, hoping I would find a piece of rubber or something else that would work better at rubbing out my mistakes than a wet finger.

As I got older, I learned what it was like to sit on the sidelines and not participate in sports or other activities because we couldn’t afford it. There was the time that my class was taken down the hall to look at music instruments. I would have liked to have chosen a clarinet but I knew it was not an option for me. In the fifth grade, on the annual play day, one of my sneakers literally fell apart when I was running because it was ripped from front to back.

When I was twelve, I got my first babysitting job. For fifty cents an hour on Saturday mornings, I watched three kids while their mother cleaned at the hotel. I opened up a passbook savings account and saved what little I could from that job and others. As a teenager, I tried to help out by paying for some of my own things. As a teen, I remember asking Mom to take me shopping to Topeka so I could buy a winter coat with my savings. I didn’t choose something fashionable; I chose a simple, cheap one. As a senior, I paid for my own pictures and graduation announcements with the money I had saved. Poverty taught me the value of frugality and self-sufficiency.

I did without a lot growing up but I got to go to a public school whether or not my parents could afford the school books. I had free lunch every day. There were many times when we did not have enough food at our house. How would I have performed in school if I hadn’t had that dependable, balanced meal every day? I will never know. What I do know is that I was a good student and I am grateful that there are people in the world who thought I should eat.

As a kid, I was well aware that there were people who looked down on us for being poor. I heard the whispers and saw the dirty looks. I knew that people resented us because their tax dollars contributed to our welfare. I write about what it was like to be a poor kid because I hope that people will have mercy on the children who will be harmed by proposed cuts to school lunch programs, the Pell grant program and after school programs that help poor students.

So let me take this opportunity to say thank you, taxpayers, even those of you who resent the poor, for paying for my free lunch. I didn’t ask to be poor any more than you asked to feed someone else’s kid, but thank you, because you did the right thing, even if it was against your will.

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney defended cuts to school programs with his claim that there is no demonstrable evidence that programs that feed poor kids help them do better in school. He believes that hard-working taxpayers should not have to pay for welfare programs that help the poor without proof that it makes a difference. He is one of those people who would have looked down his nose at me and resented me for being what Paul Ryan calls a “taker” and not a “maker.” But again, I was just a kid. I didn’t ask to be poor.

Today, I am demonstrable evidence that programs that help the poor pay off in the long run. Government grants paid for about a third of my college costs. I still had to work and I still had to get good grades to keep my scholarships. When I graduated with a degree in accounting, I made $21,000 a year at my first job at a CPA firm. That was three times what I could have made at minimum wage. Over the past thirty-two years, I have paid tens of thousands more in income taxes than I would have paid if the government had not helped me out when I needed a hand up. I’ve paid for my free lunches and free school books and college tuition assistance many times over.

The President didn’t ask me if I want my tax dollars to go towards increased military spending or towards building a wall or towards providing security for his second home or for his frequent trips to Florida. Believe me, I would rather pay for free lunches or Meals on Wheels or for taking care of our veterans. But I don’t get to choose where my tax dollars go and a shocking  quarter of every dollar goes towards military spending.

The sad thing to me is that even religious people who should care about the poor often don’t. I see more expressions of compassion from my atheist friends. One of my evangelical friends recently repeated what she heard a guy say on the radio about the difference between Christians and liberals: Christians believe that we should care for the poor with our own money but liberals want the government to pay for everything! Yet I have never heard an anti-government Christian explain just how the church or secular community would replace the government’s role in providing help to the needy.

So again, thank you American taxpayer for every bit of government financial assistance I received in the first twenty-one years of my life. I know there are people who don’t think I was worth it, but thank God someone did.

Reflections on Columbine

Eighteen years ago, two high school students plotted a massacre at Columbine High School, which is only about twenty miles from my home. On April 20, 1999, they killed twelve students and a teacher in one of the most deadly school shootings in U.S. history. I remember watching the events unfold on TV that day and how horrified I was that anyone could do something so evil, let alone two kids. Recently, I read Columbine, the book by Dave Cullen, and learned that a lot of what we had been told about the massacre was not true.

One widely spread myth was that Cassie Bernall was shot because she confessed her faith. A witness said that Cassie’s killer asked if she believed in God and she said yes before he shot her. There was some truth behind the rumor. A student was asked if she believed in God but it was not Cassie; it was Valeen Schnurr. While the martyr myth persists, the truth is more compelling to me. The purpose of professing faith is not to bring glory to yourself but to bring glory to God. Valeen seems to understand this. Although I don’t understand why Cassie’s mother Misty chose to write a book that perpetuated this myth, even after being told it wasn’t true, I can understand how desperately she must have wanted something positive and inspiring to come from her daughter’s senseless death.

Columbine was a spiritual turning point for me. In my grief I returned to church because I wanted to be with people who believe in goodness and love. Columbine reminded me of how much evil there is in the world. It was frightening to think that the world had changed so much in my lifetime that students who were bullied would strike out at their peers with hatred in their hearts. That’s not how we responded to bullying when I was a kid.

After reading Cullen’s book, I know that the motive was not retaliation for bullying. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were not social outcasts – they had lots of friends. They did not target jocks or any other group for revenge. They wanted to kill as many random people as possible.

In the immediate aftermath, it became clear that Eric Harris was the more evil of the two killers. He wanted to outdo Timothy McVeigh, the primary perpetrator behind the Oklahoma City bombing. He intended to kill several hundred students by placing two bombs in the “Commons” area, timed to explode at the busiest time of day. He and Dylan planned to shoot at the bomb survivors as they raced for the exits. Fortunately, Eric was not a skilled bomb maker. Unfortunately, he was able to acquire guns easily by asking a fellow student to purchase them at a gun show.

Eric predicted that people would not understand his reasons for murdering. He figured they would say that he was insane or crazy. Based on the evidence, including the basement tapes and Eric’s journals, it is likely that he was a psychopath, though most are not violent. His motive for killing was twofold: to demonstrate his superiority over others and because he got a sadistic pleasure out of it.

Psychopaths are not insane but they do have a personality disorder. They lack empathy. Psychopaths do not have the depth or complexity of emotions that normal people experience. A psychopath’s emotions are primitive, a reaction to threats to their own welfare. They experience emotions like frustration, rage and indignation.

The frightening thing about psychopaths is that they are skilled manipulators. They are able to mimic normal emotions easily – joy, grief, sadness, anxiety – and can be quite charming. They are proud of their ability to disguise their disregard for others and enjoy fooling people. It’s like a game to them.

Eric did not have respect for morality, justice, rules and laws. In his journal, he wrote that there is no such thing as true good or true evil, that morality is relative to the observer. He had no mercy or compassion for others. He held other people in contempt.

Dylan was not a psychopath; he was a depressive. He had been thinking about killing himself for two years and self-medicated with alcohol. Dylan was lonely and self-conscious. He was disgusted with himself. Dylan was also very smart and had a bright future ahead of him. He was introspective. He believed in God and an afterlife. Unlike Eric, he did believe in ethics and morality. He showed that he had the capacity for love, often writing about his crush on a classmate.

As I said, the Columbine massacre reminded me that there are truly evil people out there who are bent on hurting as many people as possible. But tragedies also reveal how much goodness there is in the world and how much healing is possible when people respond with love.

Cullen told the stories of many survivors and families of the victims – stories of struggles, resilience and forgiveness. Cullen was personally impacted by Patrick Ireland, a student who was shot in the head and foot. Although he had brain damage and had to struggle through rehab, his injuries did not define him or set the tone for the rest of his life. Val Schnurr is another example of a survivor who endured years of pain, therapy and counseling. She chooses to focus on the positive and is not consumed with understanding why the tragedy happened. She forgave the parents of the killers and bears no ill will towards Eric or Dylan.

For all of Eric’s contempt for his fellow man, his inhumane actions in fact revealed the beauty of humanity. Faced with physical trauma and pain, survivors demonstrated courage, persistence and determination to overcome. Faced with deep emotional scars, survivors demonstrated resilience, optimism and hope. Confronted with unimaginable cruelty, survivors showed an amazing capacity for forgiveness towards the monsters who wronged them.

In the years since Columbine, there have been many other mass shootings. After Columbine, I hoped that the national response would be to pass commonsense gun control legislation. With every tragedy, my hope wanes. In some cases, mental illness plays a role in the decision to kill others but most of the violence in America is not linked to mental illness, it’s a symptom of our violent culture. In two years, when America looks back at Columbine, how will we explain the fact that we have learned nothing?

 

Today I march because…

Today I will march in Denver, Colorado because I believe in the foundational principle that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Everyday I walk by a framed poster that I purchased in Memphis at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. It says: The struggle for freedom, equality, and justice transcends race, religion, political affiliation, and even death. This sentence reminds me that thousands of people before me, including my hero Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, fought to ensure that the freedoms I often take for granted were extended to women, people of color, and other marginalized groups.

In the days after the election, I vowed that I will stand up and defend those who live in fear because of the 45th President’s hateful, authoritarian rhetoric. Because God has shown me what is good, I promise to do what He requires of me: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God (Micah 6:8). I pledge to be a Matthew 25 Christian. I promise to help the vulnerable (“the least of these” in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats). That includes immigrants, Muslims, and people of color who still face discrimination. Turning my back on their suffering during these troubled times would be refusing to help my Lord and Savior.

During times of struggle, I often turn to the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

But I like the way Angela Davis put it even better: I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I’m changing the things I cannot accept.

  • I cannot accept racism
  • I cannot accept sexism
  • I cannot accept xenophobia
  • I cannot accept homophobia
  • I cannot accept misogyny
  • I cannot accept threats to freedom of speech, including the free press
  • I cannot accept threats to religious freedom
  • I cannot accept threats to our democracy

I believe in truth. I believe in justice and mercy. I believe in basic human decency. This is why I am marching today with thousands of other women and men across this country.

I am a watchman, Harper Lee

My husband and I recently watched the documentary Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird. I don’t remember ever reading To Kill a Mockingbird but have watched portions of the movie multiple times. My local library didn’t have the book so I read Go Set a Watchman, the book that was published 55 years after Lee wrote it. Although the book has been criticized for not being as polished as Mockingbird, I found it worth reading and am glad it was published.

Sometimes timing is everything. If I had read Watchman when it was first out a couple of years ago, I don’t think it would have touched me in the same way that it does today. But coming after the election of a man who plays dog-whistle politics, it reflected my own feeling of betrayal by people I thought shared my belief that racism is wrong. It captured my own feeling of disconnectedness from the culture and politics of my time.

In Watchman, the 26 year-old Jean Louise (Scout), returns to the small town of Maycomb, Alabama for a two-week visit. At church, the music director messed with the familiar doxology by changing the tempo to make it more upbeat – evidence that the people up North were even trying to influence worship services. Then the minister, Mr. Stone, preached a sermon on a Bible verse that provided the title to the book: “For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth” (Isaiah 21:6).

The pivotal event in the book began when Jean Louise found out that her father, Atticus, and her childhood sweetheart, Henry, were going to a Citizens’ Council meeting. She followed them to the meeting and watched from the balcony as an “ordinary, God-fearing man” gave a very racist speech to the Council, frequently using the offensive ‘n’ word. He ranted about blacks mongrelizing the race. He told the Council that God intended for the races to be separate. He spoke about preserving segregation and most hypocritically, of preserving “Christian civilization.”

Jean Louise was devastated to see her father and boyfriend sitting at the table listening to such vile racist speech. By being there and listening, her father seemed to be condoning it. Her father was the one man that she had ever “fully and wholeheartedly” trusted and she had always looked up to him as a true gentleman. In letting this racist man speak to the Council, she felt that he had failed her and “betrayed her, publicly, grossly, and shamelessly.”

Discovering that the man she idolized did not share her conviction that racism is wrong made Jean Louise wonder how she could have ever missed the clues when she was growing up. She realized “that all her life she had been with a visual defect which had gone unnoticed and neglected by herself and by those closest to her: she was born color blind.”

Later, Jean Louise’s aunt Alexandra hosted a coffee for the ladies of Maycomb.  Jean Louise had no idea what she would talk to them about. She listened to the idle chatter of Hester, a woman who didn’t seem to have an original thought; she merely repeated what her husband told her. Hester claimed that blacks up North were using Gandhi’s tactics – communism – to get a hold of the country. To herself, Jean Louise thought:

I should like to take your head apart, put a fact in it, and watch it go its way through the runnels of your brain until it comes out of your mouth. We were both born here, we went to the same schools, we were taught the same things. I wonder what you saw and heard.

Jean Louise chatted with another friend, Claudine, who wondered what it was like to live in New York. The friend had visited once but couldn’t imagine living there with blacks, Italians and Puerto Ricans. Jean Louise told her that she didn’t even notice them. Claudine told her she must be blind. Jean Louise realized she had in fact been blind to not “look into people’s hearts.” In growing up around blacks, she  never got the idea that she should despise them or fear them or mistreat them. She thought to herself, I need a watchman to lead me and tell me what he sees and to teach me the difference between this kind of justice and that kind of justice.

When Jean Louise spoke to her Uncle Jack about her disillusionment, he told her that the South was not ready for the political philosophy being pushed on it – the end of segregation and changes in the country’s attitudes about the role of government. The resentments were much as they are today:

The have-nots have risen and demanded and received their due – sometimes more than their due.

You’re protected by old age by a government that makes you save because it doesn’t trust you to provide for yourself in old age.

Uncle Jack told Jean Louise that “every man’s watchman is his conscience.” She had confused her father with God and attached her own conscience to his. Seeing him do something that was the complete antithesis to what her conscience said was right made her feel physically ill.

Near the end of the book, Jean Louise decided to leave Maycomb but Uncle Jack asked her to stay. He told her there were people on her side. He said “we need some more of you.” Jean Louise said “I can’t fight them” and “I can’t live in a place that I don’t agree with and that doesn’t agree with me.” But Jack told her, your friends need you when they’re wrong, not when they’re right. He encouraged her to stay and make a difference.

Betrayed. Bewildered. Confused.

This is how you feel when people you thought you knew and thought you could trust to do the right thing betray the values you thought you had in common. It is how you feel when you realize that you see the world differently than the people you grew up with or work with or socialize with. How can they condone racist behavior? How can they remain silent when someone says something so bigoted and outrageous? You’d like to understand how in they world they see the same things you see but fail to see or care about the injustices of racial stereotyping and unequal treatment in the criminal justice system.

The Swinging Pendulum of Social Justice

When I was in college, one of my professors told the class that throughout history progress has not been linear; it’s more like a pendulum swinging from one side to the other. When people on one side get uncomfortable with the rate of progress, they swing the pendulum the other way. In Watchman, the people of Maycomb resisted the efforts of the NAACP to end segregation and to change the jury selection process. In 2016, voter suppression efforts were implemented across the country.

I was born at the end of the Civil Rights Era so I was not aware of how bad things were at the time. Unlike Jean Louise, I grew up in a small white town in the Midwest. I had no direct exposure to racial issues. But I learned to sing “Red, brown, yellow, black and white, they’re all precious in His sight” and I believed it.

In my 50 plus years, I watched as racial stereotypes of the 1950’s and 60’s were broken. I watched African-Americans become more successful – financially, politically, academically, and professionally. Interracial relationships became acceptable. As a nation, we have made great progress, but we still have a long way to go. Racism, and prejudice still lurk below the surface. Inequalities of opportunities and outcomes still persist.

Eight years ago, I voted for the first black president. My Christian friends called Obama a socialist and the anti-Christ. I had a conversation with a loved one who told me that Obama was trying to force something into law because that’s what “they” do. I couldn’t understand why she would believe that. So much hostility has been directed at our black President and First Lady, it is hard to believe that racism does not play a role. The current president-elect repeatedly tried to delegitimize the President with the lie that Obama was not born in the U.S.

Then blacks started protesting the senseless deaths of black men, many at the hands of law enforcement. Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. A new racial movement began – Black Lives Matter. And many whites, unwilling to listen to their concerns, countered with “All Lives Matter.” When famous athletes kneeled during the national anthem to call attention to racial issues, whites became angry that they weren’t showing proper respect for symbols of our flawed country.

History has shown that when people get uncomfortable with progress, they swing the pendulum in the opposite direction.

I am a watchman

It’s been 60 years since Harper Lee wrote Go Set a Watchman. Watchman reminded me that history really does repeat itself. Throughout history, people have resisted social progress, often by spreading fear. Jean Louise’s uncle was a wise man. Those of us who believe in racial equality can let our friends know when they’re wrong. We can stand up for the rights of people of all races. This nation needs more people to be a watchman – a social conscience pointing out the difference between the kind of justice freely given to white men and the kind of justice that women and minorities have always had to fight for.

In Isaiah 21:6, a watchman was posted at the city wall to look out and report what he sees. I’m also watching and listening. I’ll tell you what I see. I see that racial prejudice still exists. I see that blacks are still not treated with the same dignity and respect as whites, even when they’re smarter and more capable. I see that blacks live in fear of being arrested for something they did not do, or worse, that their children will not survive to adulthood. I invite you to climb inside the skin of a black person and walk around in it.

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. – Harper Lee

Today the United States is once again divided on issues of religion, immigration, race, globalism, and the role of government. Many people blame “others” for their own worsening socio-economic status. Yesterday Dan Rather asked how people would describe the age in which we find ourselves. One woman wrote that we’re in the One Step Back phase of progress. I agree. Thankfully, we’ve taken many steps forward in my lifetime. Now we’re regressing as people try desperately to get back to the way things used to be. But those of us who believe in social justice should see this as a temporary setback, as a call to activism. Let’s stand on watch and tell the world what we see. Let us be the social conscience of this country.

 

Love Your Enemies, Guard Your Heart

I rarely use the verb “hate” when speaking about a person because I was taught that hating people is wrong. Instead, I choose words that basically mean the same thing: I “despise” or “can’t stand” him or her.  Or I use words that are a bit softer than the word hate:  I “dislike” or “don’t care” for the person who rubs me the wrong way. Sometimes I say as Christians often do, that I hate the behavior rather than the person; hate the sin, love the sinner.

The night after the presidential election, I had a dream – a nightmare really – that The Apprentice star was having a victory parade with thousands of people cheering. I yelled out, “I hate him!” My sleeping mind was honest. Over the many months of the campaign, I was so repulsed by the Nightmare’s words that I couldn’t stand to watch him. I still can’t bear to listen to him or see his face for more than a few seconds. I hold his dishonesty, self-centeredness, and meanness in contempt. I despise his self-aggrandizement and his ugliness towards anyone who doesn’t praise him.

But I knew I had to put my anger to bed and accept the new reality, no matter how abhorrent it is to me. Anger is a dangerous emotion that fuels hate and makes it so you can’t see straight. Anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires (James 1:20, NIV). Even though my anger at bad behavior is justified, I can’t nurse it. Instead, I am called to love and defend the people who are hurt by his anti-gospel message. I put my hope in the gospel, not politics.

The man who starred in my nightmare is not a personal enemy to me but he is an enemy of goodness. He is an enemy of honesty and integrity, justice and mercy for the oppressed, freedom of speech, and the religious freedom of non-Christians. He bullies and persecutes his enemies. I can hate what he does and says but I must have some measure of compassion for him.

How do I love someone who is wicked, especially when I know that God doesn’t like wickedness either? Proverbs says that God hates a perverse man (3:32), a false witness who pours out lies (6:19), a heart that devises wicked schemes (6:18), and all of the proud of heart (16:5). Jesus condemned greed, self-indulgence, pride and hypocrisy. How am I to love a sinner if I can’t see something lovable in him? How do I learn to see the human soul apart from his behavior?

Love Your Enemies

Jesus said that we should love our neighbors and our enemies (Matthew 5:43-45). He even said to pray for those who persecute you. After all, anyone can love people who are easy to love – people who share their interests and beliefs. When Jesus said that we should love our enemies, he did not explain how to do it. Instead, he pointed straight to God. He reminded us that God is kind to both the righteous and the wicked. Loving your enemies is how you show the world that you belong to God. He said that if you don’t forgive others, God will not forgive you (Matthew 6:15).

Jesus illustrated the concept of redeeming, unconditional love in The Parable of the Lost (Prodigal) Son. The younger son ran off and squandered everything his father gave him, while the older son worked hard and obeyed his father. When the younger son finally came to his senses, he returned to his father’s home, humbled and ready to confess his sins. His father welcomed him with compassion. He was joyful because his lost son came home.

The prophet Jonah knew that God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (Jonah 4:2). Jonah did not want to deliver God’s message to the wicked people of Nineveh. It made him angry that God was merciful. But God said, shouldn’t I have concern for them? Even the wicked are God’s children and when they repent, he shows them mercy.

Learning from Dr. King

I admire the wisdom, courage, and grace of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who had every reason to hate white people. King fought to end racial segregation and other forms of racial inequality. He was beaten and jailed for his nonviolent resistance to social injustice. Yet he chose to love his enemies. He understood the destructive power of hate. Hate begets hate. If you respond to hate with hate, it does nothing but intensify the level of evil in the universe. He said that at some point, you must have the moral sense to break the chain of hate.

Even when I do my best to put aside anger at his wickedness, I do not feel any warmth or affection for my moral enemy. I can’t empathize with him because I don’t understand or share his feelings. Dr. King explained that God does not expect us to love our enemies in the same way we love our friends. It would be ridiculous to expect people to love their oppressors in an affectionate way.

The kind of love we should have for our enemies is agape. Agape is not philia, brotherly love. It is the highest form of love – an unconditional love that transcends circumstances. Dr. King described agape as an understanding, redeeming love motivated by good will for all men. It is not motivated by any quality of its object. In other words, it does not distinguish between worthy and unworthy people. Agape love does not seek its own good but the good of its neighbor. King described this kind of love as “disinterested” in the sense that you are not loving the person because it benefits you to love them. You love them for their own sake.

Dr. King said that agape originates from the need of the other person – “his need for belonging to the best in the human family.” We are all interrelated as human beings – blacks, whites, Christians, Muslims, atheists, gay, straight, etc. No matter how bad we are, we are never completely depraved. Dr. King said that there is something in our nature that responds to goodness. Just as an evil person like Hitler can appeal to the element of evil in us, someone like Jesus or Gandhi can appeal to the element of good in us.

Pitying My Enemy’s Neediness

I pity my enemy, the gloating man of my nightmare. Pity may seem like a strange emotion to feel for a man who has wealth, power and worldly success. After all, pity is compassion for the suffering or misfortune of others. Though he would hardly be called unfortunate in material terms, he lacks something more precious than gold: love. I think the man who lives in luxury suffers from a lack of self-esteem. You can see it in the way the grand tweeter so quickly tears down anyone who wounds his pride. Perhaps denigrating other people is the only way he can feel good about himself. Perhaps he spends so much time talking about how great he is because inside he really does not believe that he is lovable.

I pity a man who does not love his neighbor – immigrants and refugees. I pity the man who does not have the love for others that is evidenced by fruit of the Spirit: peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. I pity a man who does not know how to forgive. Without love, he is nothing but a resounding gong.

And I know that the odds of redemption are stacked against him. Yes, he won the election. Yes, he reached the pinnacle of power in the United States government. Yes, he lives in luxury. Yes, millions of people worship him. But as Jesus said, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24). You can’t worship both God and money. It is really hard for someone who worships wealth and material possessions to build his treasures in heaven.

I pity a man who is afraid to look too closely at himself, to engage in honest introspection, because he is missing the opportunity to know God. He is fighting a battle he cannot win unless he surrenders his distorted sense of self. As C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity,

The point is, He wants you to know Him: wants to give you Himself. And He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble – delightedly humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life. He is trying to make you humble in order to make this moment possible: trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly, fancy-dress in which we have all got ourselves up and are strutting about like the little idiots we are.

Will my enemy ever realize that the key to becoming the greatest in the human family is humility? That as long as you strut about like a silly idiot trying to prove your worthiness to the world, you will never know God? I am skeptical but have to keep in mind that if even a tiny corner of his heart is open to God’s goodness, my enemy is redeemable.

Guarding My Heart from Hate

Timothy wrote about the terrible times of the last days. The people he describes sound just like my enemy. So while I need to see him as God does, as a lost son in need of God’s redeeming love and mercy, I also have to guard my own heart against his wickedness. I also have to guard my heart against the destructive power of anger.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. – 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)

Learning to love my enemy with a disinterested, redeeming love is going to be hard. But my heart belongs to Jesus and hatred of anyone, no matter how I feel about their behavior, does not sit well in my heart. Above all else, I must guard my heart because everything I do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23).