Can’t you just picture the wrinkled nose, the sly grin? If you’ve seen the classic Disney version of Cinderella, you know just what I’m talking about. Much to the dismay of Cinderella’s stepsisters, the stepmother has promised that Cinderella can go to the ball–if she finishes her chores. After a hopeful Cinderella waltzes off to do said chores, the stepmother reminds her appalled stepsisters that she said, “If.”
“Oh, if.” Wink, wink: Cinderella will never be allowed to go to the ball.
For some reason, that sneering stepmother has come into my mind a lot this week. I’m having a hard time picturing that look on Jesus’ face, but a lot of people seem to be trying to plaster it there:
Isaiah 1:17–Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause, IF you can guarantee that those orphans and widows aren’t secret terrorists in disguise as refugees.
Zechariah 7:9-10–“Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” But don’t bother, IF the widows, orphans, and poor live in distant lands and would need lots of help just to get here (and a couple of them might hurt you when they do).
Matthew 5:44–But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, IF loving them will guarantee your enemies won’t attack you anymore.
Somehow, I can’t quite picture Jesus saying the “if ” part, can you? It’s pretty clear from Jesus and other prophets ((from these and other verses) that God wants us to love others with as much unconditional love we humans can muster up. Easy to do? No way. Scary to do? In this time period in our country’s history? You bet.
I’ve also been pondering the title of a book that popped up this week in the terrific book review blog, Story Matters, by Katherine Scott Jones: Why God Calls Us to Dangerous Places (by Kate McCord). It tells a woman’s story about God’s call on her life to go to Afghanistan. It sounds challenging, and inspiring. She says that perhaps we are called out of our safety zones so that “we will know His astonishing, sacrificial, life-restoring love.”
We could use some of that. Sounds better than being afraid of orphaned five-year-olds, doesn’t it?
These are definitely scary times, and not just because of the terrorists that bombed France and threaten others, including us. It can feel scary just working in a school and hearing a small student scream to the Vice Principal that he wishes someone with a gun would come and shoot him–scenes of real shootings are all-too close to the surface.
At some point, we need to do what we can, yes, to prevent the bad guys from reaching us and hurting our allies, and to trust that our government has a screening process that basically works (do you think that anyone in the government wants to let in a terrorist?), But, our main job as Christians is to personally keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and to trust his Way. All of us can make sure that each person we come across feels loved, cared for, and made in God’s image, and to welcome others who need some help feeling the same–perhaps volunteering in a school with a diverse population, where you have a real opportunity to do that.
It all comes down to this: Do we trust that Jesus knows what he is talking about when he tells us to “do good to those who persecute us?” No Ifs, Ands, or Buts?
Posts on faith and friendship (themes from my children’s novel, Sophie’s Quest) are posted once a week on Sunday. Please click the “Follow” button if you’d like these to come directly to your email in box. Thank you, and may God bless your week!