There is a person I pity. Their life has been hard and is a miserable existence even still. They have very little family and are at odds with even those they have. They are lonely, unhappy, and unfulfilled. They are needy, selfish and hard to love.
Then there is a family I pity. They are not well off at all financially. They struggle. They are a little rag tag and just a bit non-pristinely crazy. I actually like them quite a bit. But I do feel sorry for them.
Then, I find myself in a conversation with this first person I pity. They are talking about this family like they are "white trash," in a sense. Disdain. "Do you know what they did/what they are like?" kind of attitude. It takes all I have to bite my tongue. To smile and nod and offer just the gentlest remark in their defense.
Inside I am raging. Who are YOU to look down on these precious souls? Do you have any idea how hard it is to reach out to YOU? What makes you any better than them? Just because you live at the top of the hill and not at the bottom? Inside I shake. My heart breaks. I want to go out and beat down the world in defense of this family.
I am a rather vehement advocate for the underdog - the unloved and misunderstood.
But I am afraid that stems from an intense loyalty and extreme sense of justice.
And that is why pity will never cut it.
It's why Jesus never said, "Pity one another" or "Feel sorry for one another and let that be your motivation for helping out."
It has to be love.
When this incident occurred, I asked my husband, "Did Jesus love the Pharisees?" When I read the Gospels, I hate the Pharisees. Despicable ones. Self-righteous idiots. Jesus was incredibly hard on the Pharisees. He hated their sin - the way they led others astray. But, God is love. Jesus died for the Pharisees as much as he died for the tax collectors and prostitutes. He forgave them and gave them new life when they believed (think Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea). He did love those cold, heartless, unloveable snobs. He didn't just pity them.
Pity didn't carry Jesus to the cross. It was his love for us and his determination to do the Father's will.
Pity is a rotten motivator, because it's just a feeling. Love is sacrifice, and that's why it will always trump pity.
Love chooses to love the unlovely. Love forgives hurts and betrayal. Love accepts people for who they are but helps them to grow into something beyond that. Love doesn't pick and choose who to care for. It reaches out to everyone, regardless of their range on the likeability scale.
It is God's will that I love others, no matter how they treat other people I love. And knowing that should help motivate me to lay down my life for ALL of those people God has brought across my path.