Paybacks in Kind

If you want to see me write, hit my hot buttons.  But I was stumped this week when I was inspired to write (that was nice, wasn’t it?) and wanted to address the topic where it arose.  I attacked the issue from a secular standpoint.  Two solid days of writing, editing, rewriting.  Four complete rewrites.  I had to face that I couldn’t do it.  Without a common ground of values, there’s no convincing another of anything.

So much of our American experience is based on Christian values.  The Golden Rule and the melting pot idea both come from loving our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31).  Even though Christianity’s not PC anymore, our politicians speak of tolerance.  We’ve had freedom of speech and religion for over two centuries; what is it they want?   As we lose our faith in God and His law, which inspired all laws, we become man centered.  The law governing all men isn’t as important as the individual man.   Special people with unique circumstances deserve special consideration.  Mercy is requested.  According to Webster, mercy is “that benevolence which disposes a person to treat an offender better than he deserves.”  We don’t have to agree with others, we just need to see them as people like ourselves and treat them the way we’d like to be treated.

Uh-oh.  Back in Christian territory.  That sounds an awful lot like “Do unto others as you’d have done unto you.”  (Luke 6:31)  I can’t go there.  If I’m honestly going to do any convincing, it must be solidly on secular ground.  No floating back into my assumptions.

Be nice to others and do good because it’s right.  Hmmm.   What’s right, and what makes it wrong?  This is slippery ground.  There’s no legislating morality – thought control is hard enough, without trying to control an entire population’s thoughts.  Of course, it can be done with a good, solid tyrant to drum the people into doormats.  But they will still have something inside which knows the situation is wrong, dead wrong.   Where does that come from?  And why will that feeling of injustice grow until it boils over into a civil war?

As I studied mercy and why we should practice it, I saw something buried in the two-column-long definition.  “There is perhaps no word in our language precisely synonymous with mercy.  That which seems nearest to it is grace.  It implies benevolence, tenderness, mildness, pity or compassion, and clemency, but exercised only towards offenders.  Mercy is a distinguishing attribute of the Supreme Being.    ‘The Lord is long-suffering and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty.’ (Num. 14:18)”

Flip, flip, flip.  Grace….“free, unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all benefits from him.”  Oh, good – we have the origin.  Oh, no.  God again.

So true mercy is not really possible without God’s grace pouring into us in the first place.   Grace is giving to others love and favor, regardless of what they deserve.  Mercy is giving it to someone who’s offended you: transgressed the line of right and wrong, which, without an overarching definition of good and bad, we cannot have.    Without a core belief in the righteousness of God, we are dependent on civil laws and authority to keep us all in line.  And, since we were asking for clemency from those laws in demanding tolerance in the first place……  I’ve lost what the argument was all about.  Secularists want tolerance and acceptance, to not be judged by Christians.  And the Christians, if they truly represent their God, are already giving compassion and love to those who don’t merit it.  Who’s not getting what they’re demanding?

Those who won’t accept God.  Those who want things their own way, demand special favor, but in doing so, trample everything they’re reputedly standing for in those around them.

I fully believe that every person on this earth has equal right to live, believe, and pursue his pursuits as he sees fit, just as I am doing.   Yet that belief alone – that all men are created equal – is itself a Christian concept, found in Acts 10:34.

So I find myself powerless to make my point, because my hearer has dismissed the only base which will hold weight.

The answer came just as I needed it (as it always does in the Christian experience), in a mass-forwarded email:

So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice:  Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?   A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats its least fortunate amongst them.

Who is the least fortunate?  The one with the least amount of opportunities or creature comforts?  Or the one with the least amount of compassion for his fellow man?  Wherever you land on that spectrum, do not judge another.  Not a one of us knows the path another has trod.  And the most frightening thing in this world, whether you believe in God or not, is the quintessential law of turnaround: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.   For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you.”  (Matt. 7:1-2)

In spite of all my stupidity and downright rebelliousness, God has been incredibly gracious to me and I can explain it no other way.   He has sent some of the most amazing people into my life – the mercy I’ve felt at their hands has changed me into something I was not just a few years ago.   I can see no other appropriate response than to give back to those who’ve blessed me richly as well as passing that favor on to the next person who is no more unworthy than myself.  I would encourage you today to look for the good.  Repay that.

A great poem I found:

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