|View from breakfast veranda at Riverbend Inn, Niagara on the Lake|
Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it! - 1 Corinthians 9:19Today's readings (above from Paul and the gaspel from Luke 6:39-42) give us some clues on how to love our neighbor as ourself. We need to remember that Jesus includes everyone in that designation of "neighbor" not just people we are close to or those who tend to be like us. Our American pattern of housing segregation by economic and racial status can make this inclusiveness elusive for us. How do we love as ourselves those people who are different from us? That's the key question.
Paul did this by becoming like them. He didn't lose his own core values but he became like other people so that he could understand the world from their perspective. In that way be became like them and, important to his mission of preaching, he could communicate effectively. In the process, of course, he was changed in fact. His experience of faithful Christians who were not Jews led him to conlcude that Christians did not have to become Jews first. He would never have understood this if he had not been able to see the world from the Gentile point of view.
The gospel reading confirms this. Jesus tells his disciples that a blind man cannot lead another blind man. We need to remove the beam from our own eye before we can even seen the speck in another's eye. In other words, being a judgmental hypocrite is not what Jesus is talking about. He is talking about getting into the skin of another, to see the world from their perspective and thus develop the empathy and compassion essential to a Christan life.