Archive for February 9th, 2011

The Ship of Life

This little cartoon by Ben Hatke captures how many of us, especially the parents of small children, feel pretty much most of the time. I especially love the way the children are tossing buckets of money out of the hole they have hacked in the hull.

Ben Hatke is a painter, sculptor, cartoonist, graphic novelist, fire-breather and acrobat, and he probably wears a few more hats as well. He is author of the recently published graphic novel Zita the Spacegirl, a winsome and imaginative tale of a young earth girl who gets swooped out of this world and becomes lost in space. Check it out at www.zitaspacegirl.com

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When I wrote of Christ’s command to love our enemies yesterday, I did not mean to be flippant by mentioning the murders of Amish children in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania as an example. In retrospect, it is sort of like mentioning a triathlete as an example of getting in shape. It is as unimaginable to most of us that we could forgive someone who harmed our children as it is that we could compete in a triathlon.

That the Amish could do this- and as a community, not just one or two saints- is testimony to their four hundred year shared experience taking the Beatitudes seriously. One need not join those who unrealistically romanticize the Amish to grant this; that they are  one of the few communities  -aside from the monastics- who have a shared ethos of living the Gospel quite literally. Like the triathlete, they were able to achieve this feat because they were already fit and trained.

But it is not just these sort of extraordinary examples of supernatural love that are rare. I have, aside from a break in adolescence, been a Christian my whole life, but it is only recently that I have taken Christ’s command to love my enemies as anything more than a pretty abstraction. And I don’t think I am alone; any observation of the words and behavior of professed Christian will show that when it comes to enemies, we are pretty much Old Testament. The appeal of this to the natural mind is that this is not obviously evil; indeed it seems just, and it is. But mercy trumps justice, and Our Lord illustrated this by His life and by His death, praying as he died that those who killed him would be forgiven.

Thankfully, few of us will ever be called to the sort of heroic forgiveness that the Amish practiced when their children were murdered. We will probably never have to be triathletes of the spirit. But we shouldn’t be couch potatoes of the spirit either. At the very least, if there is someone who is mistreating you, or has hurt you or sinned against you in any way, pray for his or her health and salvation. It may or may not affect the problem, but it will affect your soul, which in the end is the only thing that you alone can determine.

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