The Way of Jesus: Beyond Benevolence


As we prepare to officially and ritually commemorate the birthday of Jesus of Nazareth, I offer a brief reflection. I will return after Epiphany with some longer reflections about contemporary faith and life…..

Last week, at my local train station, a very down-and-out looking fellow with a worn-out looking old dog was begging for money: sitting on the floor holding a tin cup. I had just bought a magazine for my wife and had the change, a bunch of coins, in my pocket.

As I passed the fellow, I quickly dropped the coins in his cup. He muttered something but I didn’t understand what he said. Behind me an older lady did the same as I: dropped a few coins in the tin cup.

Rushing to catch the train we both ended up standing next to each other on the platform. “I always give them something at Christmastime,” she said. “Yes,” I replied with a chuckle, “Do unto others…” Then we both boarded the train and continued on our separate journeys.

Sitting in the train, as it moved across the city and into the countryside, I started reflecting about Jesus; and about how easy it was for me to drop coins into the beggar’s tin cup. I didn’t even have to look into his eyes.

In the Gospels the devotion of Jesus to the men and women around him was something much more than mere benevolence: more than simply wishing them well or being eager to do things for them. Much more than simply dropping coins into their tin cups.

Jesus’ devotion was an expression of sympathetic identity with people: in their troubles and sufferings, as well as in their joys. Their life became his life.

To say that Jesus was also Son of God, means that God indeed is one with us in our daily life, with its joys and sorrows and its certitudes and uncertainties. Divine love is not essentially benevolence. It is a sympathetic sharing in life. Emmanuel – God-with-us.

If I truly believe that God walks and lives with me – as well as with the beggar at the train station – I need to move beyond kindly dropping coins into tin cups……And that is not so easy.

Dear Friends
My very best wishes for Christmas
And may the new year 2015 be full of life and grace for all of us

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13 thoughts on “The Way of Jesus: Beyond Benevolence

  1. I am humbled and saddened by the number of times I walk by and don’t even throw a few coins in the tin cups. Thanks, Jack, for elevating my consciousness.

  2. Good morning Jack.
    The most telling part of your reflection was this: “I didn’t even have to look into his eyes”. This is something that should touch the consciences of all of us who, by giving a bit of money whether to a single beggar or to a big charitable organisation, try to kid ourselves that we have done all that’s expected of us. We give the money, and we say to ourselves “Job done! I don’t need to think about it any more.”
    When you look someone in the eye, you connect with them: it may be by way of a challenge to a rival or a potential enemy, it may reflect the warmth of friendship, at the very least it is an acknowledgement of the other person’s existence and humanity. To avoid someone’s eye, especially when you are giving them some money, is to avoid acknowledging that that person, like you, is a member of the human race, is your brother or sister. We are effectively saying to the poor beggar “You can have some of my money, but I will not give you any part of myself because I don’t want to have to remember that you exist once I have walked away from you”.
    Last October, virtually every newspaper over here in England carried a picture of Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition and the man who hopes to become our Prime Minister next year, doing just that: this politician claims to be a man of the people, to understand the problems of the poor, but the picture tells another story. You can find a copy of it in the Huffington Post, here’s the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/11/01/ed-miliband-beggar-pictures_n_6086652.html
    Many of your posts are challenges to the established church; this one was a challenge to every single one of us.

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