Seeing As God Sees
Respect Life Sunday, 2011
Today is Respect Life Sunday, so we ought to think a little bit about what ‘Respect Life’ is all about. For a lot of people – people on both sides of the issue, actually – ‘Respect Life’ has to do with where you stand on the abortion issue. This is unfortunate because if you begin and end your understanding of ‘Respect Life’ with a consideration of abortion you’ll miss out on an awful lot. For one thing, a commitment to respecting life informs the way you decide about any number of contemporary issues, but more importantly a respect for life gives light and satisfaction to every aspect of all our relationships – our relationships with other people, our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with animals and our relationship to the earth itself. I’d even go so far as saying that life doesn’t do us any good unless we orient ourselves to it with an attitude of respect.
Know the truth, and the truth is that you matter. Your mattering is at the heart of what it means to respect life. Another way of saying that you matter is to say that God respects you. In fact, the eyes of God gaze at you with boundless respect, and boundless hope. God has always looked at you that way, and always will. If someone wants to see you as you truly are, she or he has to view you with respect and hope. The more respect and hope a person brings to the act of seeing you, the more clearly you are seen. The less respect and hope, the more you become distorted. It’s vital that you realize you matter, and it’s vital that you realize everyone else in the world matters just as much.
I work as a mental health clinician. The Life issue I have to deal with more than any other is suicide. When people become convinced that they don’t matter, or that they have no hope, suicide becomes a real risk for them. If we were to look at ‘Respect Life’ as a set of do’s and don’ts for human behavior, suicide would make it to the top of the ‘Don’t’ list, but telling a person who’s considering suicide that it’s wrong won’t really do a whole lot to dissuade him or her. When I deal with clients who struggle with the urge to commit suicide, I’m always fighting to save their lives – even though they may be fighting against me. The person tempted by suicide has a whole lot of “reasons” not to respect life; but most people don’t come to the point of absolute disrespect all by themselves. Generally, they’re helped along the way by others.
Do you respect your own life? If you do, don’t spend too much time patting yourself on the back. You don’t deserve all the credit. Somebody somewhere gave you the idea that you matter. Somebody somewhere had hopes for you. Somebody looked at you with God’s eyes. We all need to be respected. We need it as much as we need air. To love someone is to respect her or him – and God calls us to love everyone.
It’s a very sad thing, but folks tend to divide the people they know into two groups: the deserving, and the undeserving. This one is a ‘shining star’, that one is a ‘loser’. There’s a problem with making judgments like that. You end up with the nagging idea that you don’t deserve to be in the deserving group. The reason for this is that every time you look at another person you’re really looking into a mirror. In order to disrespect somebody, you have to concoct a reason to be disrespectful. If there’s a reason for somebody else to be disrespected, there’s a reason for you to be disrespected as well.
The good news, though, is that there is no reason to disrespect somebody. Any reason we can come up with is false. ‘Respect Life’ is about banishing those phony reasons from our minds and hearts. Doing that well, though, takes a lot of practice; and it takes a lot of prayer. We’ve got to pray to look at other people the way God looks at them. We’ve got to pray to look at people the right way.
Every one of us has a heart that positively aches for God’s respect, but few of us will have heavenly visions. In all likelihood, we will come to know God’s respect through other people. Somebody who respects life will respect your life. Now, when you become aware of this respect should you get it into your head that you’re special, that you’re wonderful, that you’re irreplaceable? Absolutely! That’s the way you are and that’s the way God has always seen you. The good news is that other people are beginning to catch on to the fact.
Since God’s respect is exhibited in the way we treat each other, it’s important to keep in mind that when you are called upon to be the instrument through which God transmits respect to another person, you can’t discriminate. You can’t look around you and try to figure out who deserves your respect. That way you’ll find reasons to be disrespectful. God gave you respect without you having to do anything to earn it. You should share what you have under the same terms you received it.
The thing we come to realize as we are drawn into the flow of receiving and giving God’s respect is that heaven is other people. If you can see other people, and respect them, and recognize them, and acknowledge them, and appreciate them you are in heaven. If you’re blind, and you’re unable to identify with the humanity of others, you’re in hell. People are the prize. You are God’s gift to the world, and God has blessed you abundantly with the gift of other people.
There’s no need for you to hold on to a primitive idea about what it is to respect life. It is more than a catalogue of what you can, and can’t do. It’s a way to make sense of our world. It’s a way to see things as God does.