In the Christian bible there are four gospels: Mark, Matthew, John, and Luke (their chronological order; their order in the canon is Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).
In Mark’s gospel, we see Jesus telling a rich young man to share his wealth with the poor. In fact, generosity is what will allow him to enjoy a full relationship with God forever, or so Jesus tells him.
By being one who lifts up others, we each can be part of a divine healing process.
Matthew’s gospel shows Jesus being visited by a Canaanite woman whose daughter had problems. The bible Jesus would have known said that Canaanites should be destroyed. And a Canaanite woman comes to Jesus hoping he can help her tormented child. Jesus has inherited a prejudice against Canaanites, and can accurately quote a scripture to justify the prejudice. But the Canaanite woman doesn’t accept his rejection of her. He calls her a dog, an ethnic slur. But she challenges him to show her the same kindness he would show a dog. ?And Jesus then sees her as a human being who deserves compassion. He praises the woman’s faith and affirms hope for her daughter.
When religion or society says you are worthless, when you are in pain and no one cares because they’ve decided you deserve it–a kind word, a moment of human compassion, can make a difference. Something as simple as a moment of human kindness can lift us up.
In John’s gospel, we see Jesus encountering a Samaritan woman at a well. She’d been disrespected by every man she ever tried to love. Her religion, her ethnicity, and her circumstances made her a pariah in the eyes of many people, but not to Jesus. He affirms her as a daughter of God, sees her sacred value, sees that she hasn’t gotten the best breaks but even so, she deserves better than she’s had so far. She was down and out, but Jesus lifted her up by affirming her dignity.
Even when we’ve had difficulties in life, we deserve kindness, and a little actually goes a long way.
And Luke’s gospel shows the prodigal son hitting bottom, but being loved into wholeness, embraced unconditionally by family love. The story is an allegory for the unconditional and all-inclusive power of divine Love.
Yes, the gospels are filled with stories meant to lift up those who have been marginalized, vilified, forgotten, abused, or knocked down.
Of course, there are sacred stories and poems and narratives beyond the collection that is revered in my religious tradition, but my point is simply this: if religion has been used to knock or keep you down, you don’t have to accept that misuse of faith traditions. At their best, spiritual traditions are meant to lift us up. As a spiritual leader I passionately declare that you are, whoever you are, a person of sacred value and you deserve a life filled with hope, peace, and joy. This is the gospel truth!
Rev. Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div., D.Min.is the Senior Minister of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, “a different kind of church.”