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Friday, April 20, 2012

Crossing the Road

Jesus heals blind man
At today's services at the mosque, Imam Wilmore Sadiki gave a lecture in which he discussed a book. I don't recall all the religious leaders that were in the title of the book. I think it included Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad, as well as Eastern spiritual leaders. In any case, the title said that these spiritual leaders “crossed the road.” The imam explained that the author meant by this that these leaders crossed the road to reach people on an individual basis. That is, their focus was on communicating directly with each person. This is an insightful observation. The leaders that I am most familiar with are in the Bible, namely Moses and Jesus. When Moses addressed Pharaoh, his focus was not on the status of Pharaoh. Rather, he addressed him man to man. It is a common observation that Jesus often addressed outsiders – he addressed the poor, tax collectors, even Roman soldiers. He did not address any of these based on their class or status. What he looked to was the individual's moral and spiritual condition.

On my father's tombstone are the following words: “Grateful within the family of man, he prayed for individuals' care.” My father was a true Christian in this regard. In his prayers he was not a respecter of power, position, country, religion, or organization. He looked past all this and focused on the person and the challenges faced both physically and spiritually. I am much in debt to my father and to Christianity for this point of view. The person matters more than whether he is rich or poor, of high position or low. He is simply a human individual faced with the vicissitudes, uncertainties, problems, challenges, spiritual highs and depths that all humanity faces. Indeed, in this sense “all men are created equal.”

I think many feel this way. They are weary of showing allegiance and acquiescence to superficialities and thereby placing their focus and attention on anything other than the person within.

Living in America, “the most powerful nation on earth,” ever since I was born, there has been a great perhaps unavoidable tendency to view the country label that I wear of great, even of last importance. The label so readily displayed is often the source of much false pride.

We are called upon to have the decency, the humility, the empathy, to view others on an individual basis stripping away all other trappings. This then is our sacred responsibility: to humbly see all people as equal in terms of personhood. Nothing else in human terms matters so much as this. At any point by being spiritually obedient and aware, we can fully express God's intention for us. In this way, and only this way, is our self-confidence reliably set. It is not based on status or rank or anything else that is superficial and subject to decay and a sense of meaninglessness, but only on eternal principles including respect, honesty, and love.

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