The other day one of the members of the congregation stopped me and said " I have been thinking about what you said the other day, you know the bit about everyone deserving a little bit of love. It really got me thinking" I had said it in passing, not really stopping to think about the full implications. Someone else had, so it forced me to stop and think a little more on what I had said.
It is all to easy to love those I have chosen to love, my family, my friends and our Parish. It is easy to give a passing impression of love and kindness to those with whom I agree. It is easy to demonstrate charity to those I see as good, deserving and one of us.
It is however much harder to sit round a table with those whom I have recently disagreed, those whom I believe to be sinful and those who I perceive to be at odds with what I believe. However, Jesus dined with the tax collector, and then he sacrificed his life for those he knew to be sinners and rose again that we might be saved.
His love, his grace and his mercy is unlimited. It flows down on us no matter how many times I stumble, fall, turn away or deny him. When I pick myself up and turn back to him, he forgives me. Welcomes me in to his flock and gives me a new chance.
There have been many occasions since my husband has been in ministry when I have met challenging people. People who challenge who I am, where I am, what I believe and my ability to give a second chance and sometimes many chances. It would be so easy to shut them out, ignore them or judge them. Love is not an easy path. Charity not a journey that comes without sacrifice. Tolerance is not achievable without sacrifice on both sides. Salvation was not possible without Crucifixion.
In the wake of so much violence, so much pointless death and injury, it would be easy to condemn those committing it. But condemnation breeds hate, resentment and anger. Though much harder to kneel in prayer for those who take away lives so freely, it is only right that we pray for them. That we show them how to love by loving the communities around us. That forgiveness, though painful and hard, can be given. That through this harder path we can pull together with those we find ourselves at odds with, that we can heal ourselves and our communities. We must be a beacon of Christ's love in all that we do, knowing that such love comes at such a high price, but the rewards are eternal and priceless.