My favorite scene in the movie “Wonder Woman” is near the end when she has her revelation. She recognizes that each person is a mix of ugliness and beauty — always have been, always will be.
Now that she sees us as we really are, Ares suggest that Wonder Woman should simply ignore us humans because we’re flawed and don’t “deserve” her care.
“It’s not about ‘deserve,’” she responds firmly. “It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love.”
I thought about that line when I read a Washington Post story recently. The headline caught my eye: “Christians are more than twice as likely to blame a person’s poverty on lack of effort.”
Sadly, I wasn’t surprised. We’ve heard that a lot lately. Many self-styled Christians have become expert at justifying why they totally ignore Jesus’ life and his teachings.
I believe in love
They recognize that Jesus commands us to be passionate about the poor – that’s unavoidable. But they try to create a way around the command by suggesting that poor people aren’t really poor, they’re simply lazy, so we can ignore them.
They believe that poor people don’t deserve our compassion.
Or they suggest that Jesus’ passion for the needy is a personal mandate that doesn’t apply to anything we do collectively. So, it’s OK to exclude Jesus’ values from our politics, our government, our economy, our business, our society, and yes, even our religion.
Instead, we confine Jesus’ message to such a small part of our lives that it’s effectively neutered. We live by opposite values – self-importance, money, power, privilege. And we call it Christian.
Let me be clear: I’m not saying this to judge, but to challenge an attitude that’s in you and me. We all are tempted to think that we “deserve” what we have and they “deserve” their plight. Jesus challenges that attitude directly and unreservedly.
Instead of deciding that a person is bleeding by the side of the road because they made a bad choice, we put all judgment aside and stop and do everything we can to help.
It’s not about who’s made better choices. It’s about what we can do to help someone else.
Jesus reminds us repeatedly: That’s what you need to work on. Take the plank out of your own eye – it’s a barrier to love. Stop thinking that you can play God – you’re not. Stop judging who is “worthy” and who isn’t.
Instead, just love.
Love never judges whether someone deserves our compassion. It responds the way the father treats the returning prodigal son – he’s deemed totally worthy of a hug and a party no matter what bad choices he’s made.
We need to be like the father.
When we see a hungry person, we feed them and spend time with them. We visit someone in prison without judging why they are there; rather, we sit and listen and learn about them.
And those moments of unreserved giving change us. We begin to see things differently. We understand that our judgments were wrong. We become more loving.
We gain a deeper appreciation of the message that we must wash the feet of everyone – yes, including the ones who would make horrible decisions and betray or deny us. They need our love, too.
Everyone deserves our love, especially those whom the “religious” people deem unworthy — tax collectors, Samaritans, lepers, the homeless, the beggars, the sick, the mentally ill, the despairing.
Love them because that’s what grace is about. None of us deserves grace to any degree, but all of us receive it in abundance every day, no questions asked.
Let’s choose to believe in love.