Keeping the Faith
The first image that conjures up in my mind when I think of Jesus is that of compassion. And then suffering.
His tall supple body, the genteel demeanor, kind but prophetic words, soft benevolent eyes all augur a beatific presence. Of course, this is all in the realm of imagination as I am not so fortunate as to have encountered him. His account on Earth though persuades me to believe that the Jesus in flesh and blood must have been so.
The learning which we receive from his life helps us to accommodate in others the frailty of human character, and in ourselves suffering to cleanse transgressions caused by our imperfect behaviour.
<b>Turmoil and Redemption</b>
“To turn the other cheek”, is the message of enduring affliction heaped on us by others; without anger or the slightest feeling to avenge.
While “to do unto neighbours as we do to ourselves” is a message about the dignity which we must extend to others and is a benchmark for our conduct in engaging them.
As there is no escaping the dark moments of this year in Mumbai, we struggle to come to terms with the teachings of the Messiah and realities of our times.
Does it not feel exceedingly impossible to turn the other cheek or to behave with our neighouring country as our own, when all it wishes is to torment us?
To hazard an interpretation is difficult indeed, and so I turn to draw an analogy from Mahatma Gandhi’s life.
When the Pakistani regulars disguised as tribals began infiltration into Kashmir after independence, Gandhi ji yet talked of peace. Pandit Nehru had then angrily retorted, “What do you expect me to do? Put a charkha in hands of our soldiers on the border?”
Gandhiji got the message. It is worth recalling that Gandhi was himself greatly inspired by Christianity. There are a thousand biblical references where God guides his messengers to protect people and nations against enemy armies, pestilence, plague and famine.
Inuring ourselves to suffering at a personal level is a different thing, while protecting the lives of compatriots completely another. Never is there a mention that we must not secure the borders of our nation or shelter citizens against mindless violence.
But in our treatment of others, even our enemy, there must be no malice in the heart, just an intention to acquire security for the country. In that case whatever must be done for the cause, must be done indeed.
Jesus perhaps meant the same. That there is no place for hatred in our hearts. While the guilty must be punished and the people protected, for it is our duty to do so, we must not allow the deeds of these miscreants to soil our souls. For if we were to permit such an admission, the loss will be ours alone.
Solicitude about our circumstances and conditions often compels us into an undesirable mood of revulsion and intolerance.
Jesus had said, “Love your enemy.”
If we cannot bring ourselves to love the perpetrators of cruelty, then let us at least not let odium fill our bosom, vile our glare and poison our thoughts.
The marauders who spread terror must be crushed, but the anatomy of an entire faith, from which they rise, need not be condemned.
In despising them as a people or a religion or culture, we are in danger of imbibing those very faults that we have come to abhor. We will then equally inculcate in our personalities the ideology of hate, and though we won’t pick up the gun, our mind will know violence.
In not changing the grain of our character, we would win indeed.
“Do Not Judge”, Jesus had said. Who are we but mere mortals. Judgement is not our business.
Our security forces will give the terrorists a befitting response, the law of our land will hand them the prescribed punishment, as will the decree of the Lord, when the time comes.
<b>Setting an Example</b>
It is here that we look at the life of Jesus and draw inspiration. What have we suffered after all that Jesus did not?
To have been stripped and beaten, to have been made to wear a twisted crown of thorns, to have been mocked at and spat over. What is it that Christ did not endure?
What could be greater travesty of fate or limit of anguish that the man who is being pushed into the doors of death, in so brutal a way, is made to carry his own Cross.
During the crucifixion by exclaiming “Father, Have You Forsaken me….”, Jesus admits our wavering faith. By behaving as a human would have in such circumstances, he provides for us an example to empathize when our own back begins to break under misfortune. Christ’s outcry comes to us as a reassurance that the Lord allows us not to be steadfast at times, though that is a desirable condition to be in. That under the weight of agony, our soul is allowed to wail.
What Jesus teaches us is greater patience and fortitude to tide over adverse times, and that we may find peace in the belief that the sinners “didn’t know what they were doing”.
The sobering thought then acts as a counterpoise when anger begins to grip us. It allows us to forgive those who seek to do evil even as we fortify our defences against them.
There are a thousand Doubting Thomases amongst us. But equally like him, we have the capacity to achieve what the apostle did; to have crossed deserts, mountains and tempestuous sea, placing his trust in the Son of the Lord.
If it had not been for Jesus, who would have provided us the balm in our times of anguish?
He suffered so that we may find strength and comfort; he arose again, so that we may have hope.
The celebration of the advent of Jesus on Earth, at a time when the world around us has begun to collapse and the nation is held in siege, brings for us solace and induces resilience.
Most of all the life of Christ and his teachings help us become finer human beings.
It is just that we must keep the faith.
<i>Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil
For You are with me</i>
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