In the 11th chapter and 35th verse of the gospel of John, we find the answer to a frequently used trivia question on the Bible. The question is “Which verse is the shortest in the Bible?” The answer is, “Jesus wept.” It is not the shortest verse in every version of the Bible including the earliest known Greek and Aramaic renderings, but it is the shortest found in many interpretations in use today.
Jesus is my greatest hero. Therefore, I find great power and comfort in this verse. I believe there is strength shown by a person who can cry while carrying on life. Some may argue that Jesus cannot compare to a “regular” human since Jesus has been called the Son of God and other names that equate Jesus with God and references that even include Jesus in the Trinity so that Jesus is God. It is important to consider that even the teaching of Jesus as God in the Trinity includes the idea that Jesus is fully human. If you are a person who does not believe that Jesus is God, then you should have Jesus in a more powerful position, since, as a human, Jesus is the same as you and me in the body. When Jesus accomplished something, he did it as a human in relationship with God.
Regardless of beliefs about the divinity of Jesus, his humanity serves as an example for each of us and as a link to God for each of us. Jesus helps to make God personal for us. This is because Jesus shows us that a human can have a very strong and perhaps perfect relationship with God. Jesus’s amazing strength comes from his relationship with God.
From about the time I was about ten years old until I was 44, I frequently was angry with and even hated my father. One day in 1988, something happened that changed our relationship. During one of my father’s frequent raging fits of anger, I was able to reach out to him in love. I had been practicing the use of Matthew 22:36-41, the most important commandments (MIC). I used that lesson from Jesus that day to bring peace between my father and me. It was the sharing of God’s love.
Dad lived only about six more years after that, but those were much more peaceful years that I am glad we had to share. As far as I know, he never struck anybody else after that day. Instead, he learned to allow his anger to trigger a call to leave the situation, seek isolation, and pray for love, peace and understanding. I have wondered what could have happened if I had learned to use the MIC much earlier in life. My relationship with Dad was healed and became one of joy. That is what I believe all of our relationships are intended to be. I believe it is the ultimate lesson of the Bible and that Jesus expresses it for us and makes it understandable to us via the love he shows for us.
What can the love of God as expressed by Jesus do for the world? I believe it can and does change the world for the better whenever even one person expresses that love. It is what Jesus and others meant whenever the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Heaven is mentioned in the Bible.
The impetus for this post has two sources. The first inspiration came from news that one of the people who murdered my son, Dion, and his wife, Jennifer, is attempting to delay his upcoming trial. The defendant is attempting to play on people’s sympathy using a health problem that has afflicted him over the past few years. The problem can be corrected for the most part by surgery.
My initial reaction was that the defendant has been in jail for over three years and has needed the surgery for more than five years, so why did he wait until time for the trial to begin to ask for the surgery? It is obvious that the defendant is simply finding a way to exert whatever influence he can on the process no matter that it is not likely to change the results of the trial. When the health problem was made public several months ago, I felt at that time that it would be used in this manner. I am not surprised by the move, but initially I was angered.
It was another opportunity to use the MIC. It was with one of the people I find myself hating almost every day so that I am regularly asking for forgiveness and letting go of the anger. I have found some comfort in the thought that he could die during surgery. This would have two benefits. It would end his life and it would save the people of Indiana the expense of a trial and incarceration. There is a greater chance that surgery will not kill him, though.
Using the MIC, neither outcome makes any difference to my life. Inspecting the situation closely in light of the teachings of Jesus, there may be multiple opportunities arise from showing the man compassion to make the world a better place… building more of the kingdom of God. It does not seem very likely that compassion is harmful here unless one were to get carried away and decide to just let the man out of jail so he would have an opportunity to hurt others.
Additionally, it is important to note that the benefits of Jesus’s teachings are not so much from my caring about what happens to others as from what results of my hatred, hateful actions, thoughts, and behaviors in my life and in the lives of others who witness my life or are affected by my life.
The Bible is witness in some stories to anger expressed by Jesus. Since Jesus is fully human, that is to be expected. There generally seems to be little reason for inclusion of the stories except showing that Jesus could be angry and that he recovered from the anger. I believe the greatest difference between one of us and Jesus is that Jesus developed such a strong relationship with God that he could more completely and correctly share that relationship (God’s love) with others. Through compassion, anywhere Jesus went, he could and would more easily establish loving or godly relationships so he more readily understood others. This meant his interactions and reactions were more appropriate and authentic.
Jesus reaches those who are open to God’s love. People who are more interested in self have always found it somewhere between difficult and impossible to listen to Jesus and learn to follow him.
The second inspiration for this post is the attitude that people can have to someone crying. It seems especially unacceptable for a man to cry. The negativism toward a male crying begins at a very young age, perhaps as early as the development of the ability to talk. Since the death of my son, a few people have reacted very negatively to my crying over the loss and about missing Dion’s presence. It seems I shed at least a few tears daily even though he was murdered more than three years ago. The few negative comments have been such as, “You need to be strong to show a good example,” or “Stronger faith in God will help you get over it”.
Some in our society do, unfortunately, denigrate the value and appropriateness of crying, especially when a man cries.
Our president spoke to the nation this week as he began to take action that would enforce gun laws that have been ignored for years. As he was speaking, he choked up at times and there were some visible tears. It was obvious that he was upset about the loss of life that is occurring more and more frequently at the hands of people with guns. In spite of what groups like the NRA proclaim, many of the perpetrators are people who only temporarily “lost” control.
It is important to note here that the president is only taking action to see that the laws already on the books are actually enforced. No new laws have been created. Yet, a relative few in our country have decided to attack Mr. Obama for moving to enforce the laws. Some have claimed that the president is creating new laws or that he is moving to take away their guns. Neither is true.
If one reviews the presidency of Barack Obama, I think one will find that he has brought the nation together at times to at least begin considering some important issues that had been danced around for years. First, he managed to get us to seriously consider provision of health care for everyone. The system is far from being the best it could be, but after a century of talking about it, we do have a system that covers virtually everybody here. Second, long delayed action on immigration has begun due to attempts to force action by executive orders. Legislation has languished for years and personnel to enforce existing regulations have not been funded. Third, we are finally on the verge of forcing a serious discussion of violence in our nation in spite of the influence of powerful lobbies.
In this and other actions, I can see a pattern that the president has adopted. In each of these cases, when he has taken action, Congress has been compelled to react in some way so that the voters can get a better idea of just what our elected representatives stand for. It gets us off the mark and accomplishes something.
When something is dear to my heart such as family and friends, I will shed a tear in observance of my love for them. In the case of the president, I believe he is sincere in his love of people and in his tears over the prospect of decreasing the bloodshed. It is unfortunate that some have attacked the president for his tears rather than taking away a positive view.
In the critiques I have read concerning the Bible verse “Jesus wept”, the explanation is that Jesus had compassion for the suffering of the people who cared for Lazarus. The compassion was there due to Jesus’s love for them and for us.
The MIC as prescribed by Jesus calls upon each of us to seriously consider our attitudes, beliefs and actions. The call is there for each of us not just as Christians, Muslims, Jews, or just as good people, but as citizens, too. A great lack of respect has grown among various groups in our society. Love requires respect, so with lack of respect so common in the United States today, love is frequently absent, too. In dealing with our national issues, we must learn to use the MIC in more of our relationships. That includes using the MIC in our politics. I believe it will help us learn to work together for solutions.
I have been one who at times has felt a need for vengeance. When observing the guns and violence debate today, I can see why people would want to clutch a gun and look tough. Belligerence is a defensive stance initially, but it is a stance which can turn to aggression quickly. It seems to me that our weapons industry and their lobbyists and politicians have fed the growth of belligerence from a selfish greed with little regard for the long term effects. When I apply the MIC to the weapons argument, I hear Jesus saying to set the weapons aside and learn to peacefully handle more of life. Drop the belligerence.
In the 1960s, George Harrison of the Beatles wrote a song called I Me Mine. It reflected the growing culture of self-centeredness that he observed and may have been his observation of one or more members of the band. The MIC calls us away from that.
I suggest reflecting upon the MIC throughout the day. It is a good way to eventually find Jesus not just by your side, but inside your heart and your head where he can take his place in your soul.