“Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”
– O, Holy Night
The victims of abuse do not, for the most part, think of themselves as nice. Not “really” nice. Not white glove, blue hair nice. Not church twice a week nice. Not first tier, upper crust, silver tea tray nice.
We know what goes on behind the lace curtains. We have seen the underbelly of life, the face of evil hidden from public view. We have been told we are worthless, and treated as if we were. Beaten, spit upon, handled in ways that left us feeling dirty.
But good manners are not the measure of our humanity, whether we have or lack them. Salvation does not require good breeding and a sterling reputation. The silver tea trays and white gloves are irrelevant.
It was not “nice” for Jesus Christ to associate with tax collectors. It was not “nice” for Him to heal lepers or hemorrhaging women. Lepers (Lev. 13: 45) and bleeding women (Lev. 15: 19) were, in fact, considered ritually unclean. It was certainly not “nice” for Jesus to pardon prostitutes.
It may have been compassionate, even merciful. But it was not “nice”.
What Christ offered these desperate people was redemption, transformation beyond anything that could be accomplished through worldly means alone. For that He was castigated, and ultimately crucified.
What the religious elite of Christ’s day, the Pharisees – and far too many Christians like them today – valued was propriety. Not virtue, and certainly not holiness.
What modern Christians forget is that they, too, are desperate people. They, too, are riddled with sin for which self-righteousness is no cover and no cure. Only from that perspective can they understand the significance of Christ’s death and Resurrection.
Jesus Christ asks more of us than punctuality and perfect attendance. He wants to set us ablaze with love for Him and for others…the weak and flawed like ourselves, the outcast and broken, sinned against and sinning. He wants us to change the world.
That takes more than being “nice”.
With thanks to Susanne Schuberth
A Happy New Year to All!
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