Think of someone you find it difficult to like. Think of a person who annoys you, makes you feel uncomfortable, who lives totally differently from you. Does that person dress the way you think they should? Is he clean? Shaven? Does he have tattoos? Does she dress modestly? Does she reek of perfume? Does she walk and talk as ladies are supposed to? Are these the reasons why you find it difficult to like them?

Why is it that we want people to be as we picture that they should be? Is that really how love works? I will love you, but you must fit into my expectations. I will help you, but you must look like you really want my help. Everything must be in its proper place, before we can start to show our affection, and our concern for these individuals. It sounds more like a duty that we grudgingly give, than a true concern for what the person needs at that time. If it is a duty and not a concern, then we have missed the meaning of Christianity.

If Jesus felt that way before taking up His cross, I wonder which one of us would still be looking for salvation. I dare say that all of us would have been left behind. Why is it that we see what is wrong with others, but don’t view ourselves in the same way, with the same scrutiny? We make allowances for ourselves. Or, more accurately, we don’t even see the imperfections that flow from us. This is not to tear us down, but rather to help us realize that all of us, every person who lives, struggle with our own problems. We pray that we can grow in love to reduce our own frailties. This is a huge enough task, so much so, that criticizing others is a waste of time.

Jesus has told us again and again, “I am the Way…” That is not just poetry. He is telling us simply that if we want to live our lives as God wishes, then we must be like Jesus… be Jesus. Jesus didn’t say to the beggar, I would make you clean inside, but first go wash yourself. He didn’t tell the adulterous woman that he couldn’t help her until she helped herself. The lepers, well they just wouldn’t stand a chance if Jesus felt as we do.

We cannot continue to put people in boxes. We cannot continue to categorize people, silently putting them into a niche we have set aside for them. If they don’t fit, well just drop them into the catch all bag of “unimportant stuff.” The next person you see is the same as you, struggling, trying to cope, fighting their own niche placing exercises, (for all you know, maybe you just fell into someone else’s niche).

The only way that we can be the person that God is looking to find in us, is by following the way of Jesus. People are not obstacles, are not annoyances, and definitely are not below us. We have all flowed from God’s goodness. Just as the trees and flowers, the sunlight, the birds in the air, all creation (that includes us) flow from God’s beauty. We are not here to criticize, to step on people so that we can get ahead, to take advantage of people. No, we are here to give honor and glory back to God. We do that in a myriad of ways. But probably the most important way is to see the beauty of God in all of creation (others as well as ourselves). It is then and only then, that the way of Jesus becomes a meaningful, true option for us.