Reading the Bible is a little like being jettisoned to the other side of the globe. We find ourselves where they speak strange languages, tell jokes that go over our heads, celebrate strange customs, and basically leave us feeling lost and bewildered a big chunk of the time.
The Lord is my shepherd, but I still want. I want whatever my heart desires. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, but I spy grass that is greener on the other side of the fence. He leadeth me beside the still waters, but I know of still more exciting places where I’d love to drink my fill.
Many 1st century Jews awaited a messiah who would flex his celestial biceps, body slam Rome, and beat his chest to the applause of the liberated masses. Just as David iced Goliath and sliced off his head, so the New David would be an ass-kicking, pagan-thrashing, political powerhouse who would make Israel great again by decapitating their Roman overlords.
Want to do something that people really love? Commit an act of infamy. It doesn’t have to be a mind-boggling evil. Something run-of-the-mill will do. It just needs to be simple, scandalous, and public knowledge. Think Monica Lewinski.
This black-and-white photograph, taken in the l890’s, perfectly captures in a single image what it means to flourish as a human being in an imperfect world. We may not be challenged by any physical disability, but all of us are lacking in one way or another. And our impairments are the very reason God pairs us with others. In those pairings, in those dependent relationships, we learn that we not only need others, but are in fact created to need others.
We don’t need a psychologist to inform us that people who are charitable, caring, and compassionate generally rank higher on the happiness scale. We know people like this. And we’ve experienced it ourselves. We go out of our way to lend someone a hand or donate a little extra to charity, and what happens? We feel a rush of pleasure. We feel better about ourselves.