We all know that Jesus said to love your enemies. When I first read the Bible, I was struck by the passage that says, "They will know you by how you love one another." One of the two most important commandments, according to our Lord, is to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.
He told us to show this love by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoners, etc. He said that, when we served the poor and needy that we were really serving him directly. What a glorious opportunity!
Love. Love. Love. Jesus is all about the demonstration of love, yet today we have an upsurge in the amount of toxic public discourse in which the poor are demeaned in every way. Mostly, the people who complain about the poor claim that they are lazy people who are "working the system" and taking advantage.
Stories ABOUND in which nosy people examine the shopping carts and personal dress of a person using a food stamp subsidy to pay for their groceries and then extrapolate that, if they can afford those things, then they shouldn't be receiving help buying food. Never mind that the critic knows absolutely nothing about the personal finances of the person upon whom they wished additional poverty. The critic does not know who is paying for the cell phone they wish the poor person did not have. The critic begrudges the poor person the nice vehicle he or she is driving, yet does not know to whom the car belongs or even if the poor person paid for it themselves when they were working and successful.
Critics assume that poor people have been poor their whole lives, it seems, because they can't imagine that a poor person would be in possession of things purchased when they were financially successful.
I could give many credible reasons why someone would have a cell phone, a car, a pair of earrings...but it doesn't matter because it is irrelevant.
Jesus did not say to love your neighbor as much as yourself provided that you approve of all of his or her life decisions. No. We are to love one another. PERIOD. Love. Not criticism. Not judgment.
If your first instinct is to criticize, then your mind is inclined in a direction away from Jesus and away from his commandments. In fact, all this criticism of the poor is a distraction from the commandments of God. It is a method of grasping onto one's own greedy little pile of comfort. If a person can convince themselves that the poor have some egregious character defect, then the critic thinks they can assuage their conscience and continue to live in comfort while others go hungry, unhoused, unchurched, and unhealthy. They grow to think that the poor deserve to be poor...and the poorer, the better, so that they'll be forced to get off their lazy bums and get a job.
I have written many times about the facts that disprove every one of the critic's arguments about the conditions of the poor in America. Today I write about saintliness.
When Mother Teresa picked up the filthy, scabby, maggoty, sick old man from the streets of Calcutta, she did not first interview him to determine if he was worthy of her love and care. She did not sit there on the curb, pad and pen in hand, asking questions and checking off boxes on some form. She did not consider if he had bad habits that contributed to his pitiful condition. She did not care about any of that. She dispensed the love of Christ. That was all. She did not hesitate. She picked him up and brought him indoors where she and the nuns loved him and cared for him, washing, dressing, feeding and coddling him until he revived or he died. Mostly, they died. But they died in love, surrounded by sweet, gentle, smiling faces.
I do not imagine that this tendency to criticize lays outside of myself. I have also experienced bouts of criticism in my lifetime, when my heart has not been soft enough and I needed to lean into a person with God's love instead of arrogance. It is a daily process, to check one's mind and make sure that it is inclined toward Jesus, in tune with his love and his intentions. Lots of prayer helps.
Writing this constitutes my commitment to maintaining a loving inclination of heart, to look upon all others with a compassionate eye and see them the way God sees them, in the radiant beauty of the image of God in which they were made. To think well of others is a delightful thing. It generates a deep feeling of joy and bliss. Come join me, all you critics and pessimists, and partake of the bliss. In the meantime, I pray for you. Please pray for me.
God bless us all.
Silver Rose Parnell