Secretly, in the back of my mind, and just for me alone, I have always considered myself to be courteous to others. I’ve never expressed that out loud or in writing before today. And I’m not saying it now to try to impress you or anyone else. The reason I’m saying it now is to give you an understanding of one reason that I have come to like myself. And I think it is important for everyone to come to like him or herself, no matter what the reason. Some people come to like themselves for their physical beauty, and others for things they were able to achieve in life. And I think those are fine reasons. “Whatever floats your boat,” as my father used to say.
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t understand why God put us in this life but suspect it is for us to learn to love. After all, Jesus Himself told us that He had come to abolish all laws and then issued only one commandment Himself: “Love the lord God with all of your heart and soul. And love one another. Do these things and you will have eternal salvation.” To me that is as clear as it can be and frankly I don’t think it’s debatable.
But what is not clear is how far must we go to love one another? Christ said if a man steals your jacket that you should offer him your shirt as well. If a man slaps your cheek then offer him the other cheek to slap. Where is the line drawn? If a man kidnaps your child to sexually assault him/her and then kills the child to cover his tracks, what should we do? Give him our other child? Except for a few extremists most of us would say : ”No, execute him.” That clearly crosses the line, doesn’t it? But why? Does stealing a person’s coat not constitute robbery? Does slapping someone’s face not constitute assault?
And so I think Christ did not abolish laws of earth. He abolished spiritual laws. And His intention was quite easy to understand as immortalized by the wonderful John Lennon: “Love is all you need.” If each of us could come to love one another as Christ would prefer then there would be no crime. The cold man would love his benefactor too much to steal a coat from him, and the benefactor would love the poor man too much to allow him to be cold.
But earthly laws still exist because few of us can come to love at that level. We as men and governments institute laws because some things are just so heinous that we must create deterrents to them. “Give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar.” To me that means to obey your government’s laws. So yes, indeed child molesters must be punished as should all other people who break laws.
So for the murderers and rapists we feel confident in not loving them, and in fact we often hate them because of what they have done. But I think that might be wrong. Yes, punish them. But always remember that he or she is a child of God also. They came to commit their heinous acts because there is no love in their hearts. Hating them in turn only starts to chip away at our own reserve of love.
And where am I in the scheme of things? I end up hating the guy in front of me at the green light who dawdles and causes us to hit the red light again. And that’s not even a crime. Just idiocy. I am a long way from being courteous I think. Oh, for the eternal guilt of Catholicism…