“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus speaking
“But woe to you, Pharisees and scribes, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”
Matthew 23:23-24, Jesus speaking
These two passages sum up a lot of what I know about who Jesus is and what He cares about. The first is His unbelievable compassion, empathy, and gentleness. He wants to heal us. He wants us to not feel pain anymore. He wants us to have rest. And so, He tells us to come to Him, where we will find our heart’s desire.
The second is His ferocious lack of tolerance for hypocrisy, for self-righteousness, and for ignoring the fundamental things while obsessing over the less important things. He does not hold back His words of rebuke for the Pharisees. He sees them as blind guides, who are harming the sheep He loves, and so He calls them out on it.
This is how we are to be. We are to love our friends profoundly, to desire to see them healed, to want to take away their pain. At the same time, we ought to not be cool with self-righteousness and warped priorities, especially when we find these sins in ourselves. And like Jesus, we are not supposed to mince our words about it, but be direct, yet also humble and loving. To the lowly, we are to be kind and gentle. To the haughty, we are to be threats to haughtiness. This convicts me, because boldness hurts people’s feelings most of the time and I hate hurting people’s feelings.
To keep these two virtues well, we have to keep our eyes on Jesus, who taught us these things in the first place. Because without Him, both these character traits can turn into character flaws. Empathy and kindness can turn into being unable to stand up to injustice or being blind to the faults of another, which doesn’t help you or the other. Hatred of hypocrisy in others can turn to pride and self-righteousness, which is wrong in itself and prevents any further progress in us. If we are focusing on how everyone else is focusing on the wrong things… we are missing the point.
But when we go back to our Teacher, who taught us about humility and rebuke in the first place, He shows us how we are really to be, and He will show us how to have true compassion without losing sight of reality and our own finiteness, and how to rebuke another person without losing sight of forgiveness and humility. Only when our eyes are fixed on our Savior can we hope to be who we were meant to be, with all the nuances and subtleties that that entails.