“To live above with saints we love, oh won’t that be glory! But to live below with saints we know, well, that’s a different story.” - Anonymous
"I love humanity; it's people I can’t stand.” - Linus Van Pelt
That God can get anything done in this world is nothing short of a miracle. I refer not to the challenge of living the Gospel amid a materialistic, militaristic, me-centered world. God’s real challenge is for those of us who claim to be on the same team to work in harmony. We are called to “do the good works that God has prepared beforehand for us to do.” But it is so hard for us to get along. The pagans don’t drive us crazy half as much as our sisters and brothers in the faith do. And it’s nothing new:
- Adam turned on Eve,
- Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him,
- The Israelites distrusted Moses,
- The 12 tribes of Israel fought with each other,
- and King Saul didn’t like King David, whose son despised him.
Human nature changed little after Jesus came:
- Paul got fed up with John Mark,
- Peter stayed aloof from Gentile Christians,
- Hebraic Christians kicked Hellenistic Christians out of the food pantry in Jerusalem,
- and Charismatic Christians considered other Christians legalistic old fogies.
How do we avoid letting pettiness warp our wanting to be patient, gentle, and kind? When others sin boldly against us, we are to forgive them. We know that. But what if they just annoy us? Are we to shrug off consistently small-minded behavior?
Peter talked too much; Thomas believed too little; James and John thought of themselves too highly. To top it off, the apostles could be self-absorbed and stiff-necked about their status in the group. When they all needed their feet washed before dining—as was the custom—they glanced around with their best “Who, me?” expressions. So Jesus did the unthinkable, and He washed their feet.
Jesus knew who He was, and that was the secret. John’s Gospel tells us Jesus knew (1) that the Father had put all things under His power, and (2) that He had come from God, and (3) that he was returning to God. So "He got up from the meal . . . and began to wash His disciples’ feet" [13:3-5].
Ah, there’s the prescription to overcome small-mindedness: remember who you are in relation to God, not in relation to others. Jesus could reflect God toward those who didn’t, precisely because He knew His status with God. If He’d been keeping score on the disciples’ behavior and attitudes, their feet would still be dirty. But Jesus realized that a gaze fixed on God—and not others' behavior—is the key to living out the high calling of our daily work.