Patching Cracks


September 29, 2021

This week, I finished reading a biography of Joseph Stalin. I learned a great deal, but the one thing that stood out to me more than anything else in the book was about during Stalin’s early days as an activist before the revolution. The author talked about how Stalin, and many of those he worked with, were aiming to improve the lives of the working class in Russia. The whole purpose of the movement was to raise up the working class. However, Stalin and his co-revolutionaries considered workers to be entirely too stupid to know what was best for them. In fact, the more of Stalin’s words I read, the more it became clear that he held them in contempt. That struck me as crazy. He claimed he wanted to raise up people that he held in contempt. I believe that is part of why he was so willing to jail, torture, starve, and kill his own people. Millions upon millions of working class farmers died in Stalin’s efforts to improve their lot in life. Now, it’s fair to acknowledge at this point that Stalin was pretty evil and morally bankrupt in some fundamental ways. However, that doesn’t negate the truth that you cannot care for and serve the interests of those you hold in contempt or consider unworthy of you. I believe this is the ultimate wisdom of Christ’s teaching on loving neighbors, including enemies and the most unlovable people around you. This isn’t easy in our day and age of outrage politics. It seems like everyone is calling the folks who disagree with them names. Folks find it easy to mock conservatives, liberals, mask-wearers, skeptics, urban dwellers, rural folks, etc. Everywhere you look folks are name-calling and holding each other in contempt. The thing is, we cannot live right toward folks who we look down on. We can’t convince them of our viewpoint. We cannot govern, teach, or improve anyone if we hold them in contempt. Even worse, attitudes of condescension do more to change us than anyone around us. When we look at folks and only think miserable things, eventually it will change who we are. We can’t fill ourselves with bitterness and expect to be good people. I believe this is why Paul directed followers of Jesus saying: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” It is certainly why Jesus taught that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. It is definitely reflected in his prayer for God to forgive those who were in the process of crucifying him. He came to seek and save the lost, but you can’t pour yourself out for folks you hate. Doing so will only empty out your soul and keep you from ever serving properly. The reason I am sharing this is simple: I want to challenge myself and everyone else to examine their hearts, words, engagements, social media posts, and everything else and then ask: “Do I love folks or hold them in contempt?” Or maybe: “Do my words and attitudes reflect those of Jesus?”


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