When my oldest daughter was five, she and I were out ridding bikes in the neighborhood. Noticing that I was saying hello to every person we passed she asked, "Why are you talking to strangers? You told me never to do that."
If you are a reader of my blog, Jesus Not Jesús, then you might see something wrong with this scenario. You see, for years I have been asking people to do the opposite of what I was teaching my kids at home. While I’ve worked hard to teach people to look for the divine presence in every person, and to treat them as if Jesus was the other person.
So why then did I think my own kids should be exempt? I know, my kids safety should come first otherwise but what kind of lesson am I really teaching them if I say one thing but do the other? The cool thing about Jesus is he meant what he said, and practiced what he preached. He did what he says he’s going to do. And then asked us to do the same.
Easier said than done when you’re the Son of God, or when don’t have to worry about what mean people might do to your child. Oh, wait…maybe it’s not so easy for God either. Still, we are called to be like Jesus – to show the same love, grace and kindness to others that has been shown to us.
Lent is a time for practicing our spiritual exercises that build our strength and the discipline we need to be Disciples of Christ Jesus who met people in their pain and celebrated in their joy. This is the way to our wholeness in human terms, and holiness in the divine.
It doesn’t need to be scary, difficult, or harmful. In fact, the simpler the better because we all share the same basic needs. It could be as simple as offering a smile to a stranger as you pass them on the street; giving a dollar to a person in need of money; recycling clothing you no longer wear so someone can have a clean shirt for a job interview that might change their life around.
When we set aside our own fears or concerns to care for a friend or show kindness to a stranger, when we treat him or her the way we would treat Jesus or someone we loved dearly, then we are demonstrating a kind of justice that comes from the heart and embraces peace.
Each kind act begets another. This is what Jesus' teachings were all about. Through compassion and love, God teaches us how to love both God and our neighbor with one simple act.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”