Print Version September 25th, 2004
We dig the ditch, we build the walls, we try our hardest to keep them at bay as best we can—poverty, disease, terror, discomfort. We do not want these hideous things in our lives. No one wants to be sick. No one wants to be poor. No one wants to be afraid. We dig the ditch. We do not want to see. We do not want to know. We do not want to remember.
That’s the story today. Not about wealth in itself but about the gulf we fix between ourselves and those we call ‘unfortunate’, those touched by what we fear.
This is a parable, a story with a twist, and the twist is this—by the time we have dug the ditch finally deep enough to fix the gulf between ourselves and what we fear we find we are on the wrong side. We thought we were keeping ourselves safe and in fact we were walling ourselves up.
We’d all like to be called compassionate. But com-passion means suffering with, suffering alongside. And isn’t that what we protect ourselves and our families from—from being in the same boat as those who suffer? Who wouldn’t? Suffering is wrong. That’s our deepest instinct—that this world was made good and suffering is a mistake, a horror, an evil. Compassion makes no sense.
And yet we know it does. But only in the context of desire and attraction and of love. There are already those we would not hesitate to suffer for—those we love in sickness and in health, for better or worse. Love bridges the gulf as nothing else can. Love is our only way out.
How does this help? How do we stop digging the ditch? Only by loving indiscriminately the way Jesus did. The way God does. But maybe that is too hard for us, any of us. Maybe it is enough to know we are loved indiscriminately by our indiscriminate God. Maybe that is a taste of our own medicine—to know what it is like to be on the end of that kind of love—to find for ourselves that God doesn’t shun us the way we shun Lazarus; to find that God knows our name.
Maybe we might find we are already on the wrong side of that gulf, already among the poor, the flawed, the weak, the unworthy. Maybe when God loves us we’ll find whose side we are on. Maybe Lazarus is already our brother.