"Sometimes we wonder whether our lives in Christ are bearing fruit. Here, my brothers and sisters, are some pretty good signs. .
In spite of our own suffering, loneliness, and pain, we're welcoming. We're warm. We're kind.
We’re in immediate, intimate contact with a few active drunks, someone who’s headed into or has just emerged from a psych ward, an incarcerated felon or two, several porn addicts, a young girl who’s pregnant out of wedlock, several women who have had abortions and are in silent, excruciating mourning, at least one stripper, several people in desperately unhappy marriages, about to be evicted from their apartments, or dying, a minimum-wage worker or two, at least three people who are certifiably insane, at least one U.S. Army chaplain and one peace activist (even better if they’re both priests and the latter is in solitary confinement in a federal prison), several homeless people (the more the better) and a scad of gay people, transgender folks, and sex and love addicts of all stripes.
If that’s not part of our circle, we're not getting out enough. If we aren’t sharing our struggles and hearts with that circle, at the very least in prayer, something is wrong. Because those are the people Christ hung out with. Because “those people” are us: suffering, struggling humans. Because if we’re going to be inviting people to a life of poverty, chastity and obedience, we surely need to be inviting each other into our homes, our tables, our hemorrhaging, conflicted hearts.
If we're afraid all that is going to "lower our standards," we're very much mistaken. For the follower of Christ, no standard is lower than self-righteous fear.
Share the joy, man. Tell a joke. Lighten up. Eat a meal with some friends. Exchange stories of how you’re walking toward the light.
One morning we’ll wake up and realize we are 'following the rules" and then some.
We’ll realize we haven't added it up but we're probably giving away at least ten percent of our money. We’ll realize, with total wonder that we haven’t watched porn, committed “solitary impure acts,” had sex outside marriage, or flirted with someone inappropriate for weeks, months, years.
We’ll realize that we actually let that guy who cut us off in traffic yesterday off the hook. We actually felt a stab of what felt suspiciously like affection toward our mother-in-law, junkie son, sex-worker neighbor; toward the Marine Corps soldier and the Plowshares activist (depending on our stance, one of these is sure to be difficult); toward our boss (bonus points if you’re self-employed)’ toward the young girl who, from a one-night-stand, is having an abortion, toward the young girl who, from a one-night-stand, is having a baby; toward the father who, in both instances, bailed.
We’ll realize: Oh. THIS is what Christ meant! I don’t have to be boiled in oil or have my eyes gouged out. This is laying down my life: this sharing, this exchange, this richness, this mercy, this mystery.
We’ll realize that love is a way more tender, and way more exacting, Master than fear."