Forgive us for we became what we hated...

On more than one occasion I have found myself moved by the excerpt from the poem by Bertolt Brecht entitled: "To Posterity"

In my time streets led to quicksand.
Speech betrayed me to the slaughterer.
There was little I could do. But without me
The rulers would have been more secure.
That was my hope.
So the time passed away
Which on earth was given me.

For we knew only too well:
Even the hatred of squalor
Makes the brow grow stern.
Even anger against injustice
Makes the voice grow harsh.
Alas, we
Who wished to lay the foundations of kindness
Could not ourselves be kind.

But you, when at last it comes to pass
That man can help his fellow man,
Do not judge us too harshly.

Implied in this ending, however, is one more truth: do not judge us too harshly because... we became what we hated. Over and over again I have seen this lived out in all its brutal ugliness: religious zealots who use violence and hatred in the name of God's peace, secular atheists fighting for justice who become political bullies and arrogant tyrrants, peace-activists who blow up people and buildings for the greater good, spiritual pro-life activists who murder abortion doctors and on and on it goes. And the refrain remains the same: please forgive us for we became what we hated.

Now forgiveness is important - it is always a sign of God's presence - and because I need it as much as anyone else, I celebrate forgiveness as a healing gift. But forgiveness does not mean we forget or overlook the consequences of our hatred, violence or arrogance. St. Paul is uniquely clear on this matter: "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being rendered useless (perishing/apollumi), but to those of who who are being made whole (saved/sozo) the cross is the power of God." (I Corinthians 1: 18-25)

I'll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
I'll expose so-called experts as crackpots.
So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn't God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.

While people of tradition clamor for miraculous demonstrations and the elite goes in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Some treat this like an anti-miracle—and others pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God—from any walk of life—Christ is God's ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can't begin to compete with God's "weakness... In time it should become obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"?

To be a holy fool - defined by the weakness of compassion and the way of the cross - is a journey. By nature it evokes ridicule and disdain from some; from others it is just a stupid waste of time. And yet, it seems to be one of the best ways for bringing real peace and hope into reality - and it sure beats the cynical and mean-spirited ethos of those who are certain that they already know better than everyone else, yes?

People of faith should never hide from debating or engaging the foolishness of Christ and his Cross with those who disagree or misunderstand. Not only can we learn and be corrected, but people of good will can always find common ground. But let's not waste our time with those who are addicted to carping or complaining either; there are some people we must simply let go of and shake the dust off from our sandals. Always with compassion, to be sure, but with deliberate action, too, because they are soul vampires - and life is precious. (BTW: this last graphic is a little key chain that helps me keep this all in perspective. I got it in London and always seems to be just right... about myself and others in equal portion.)

1) Trix Kuijper @
2)Abstract Cross @


Popular Posts