Jesus said, “I give my sheep eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10.28)
The convergence of tragic events — bombings in Boston, cowardice in the US Senate, attempts to poison officials, surging profits at the banks that nearly bankrupted the nation — sent me to YouTube.
I happened upon a link to videos showing amazing acts of kindness and courage. None appeared in newspaper headlines. They just happened because people are decent. I watched, for example, a Marine deployed in Afghanistan surprise his family at a college football game and bring thousands to tears.
I read more articles about kindness and courage after the bombings on Monday, as people instinctively remembered the obligations of being human.
Cowardice in high places and greed run amok seemed the anomaly.
When Jesus refers to “my sheep” and promises them eternal life, he could be referring to those who adopt certain beliefs, join certain fellowships, and obey certain rules.
That certainly is the understanding that many Christians have pursued over the centuries. Even today, some fellowships, both global and local, insist that theirs is the only way and that all others are flawed and phony, perhaps fatal.
I don’t think Jesus meant that at all. His “sheep” are simply those who do life his way. They follow his example. They speak truth to power, welcome outcasts, risk everything for justice, feed the hungry, clothe and shelter those in need, rise to the defense of the weak, and sacrifice for others.
Whatever “eternal life” means — wholeness here and now, victory after death, an eternity in God’s loving embrace — it flows from being a child of God, not from belonging to a certain brand of religion.
Children of God do kindness and mercy. They don’t serve Mammon or the forces of darkness, who prey on the weak and manipulate our common life to their narrow benefit.
There are many ways to follow God, some of them not Christian. And we the people tend to know what they are. While our elected officials sell their votes to special interests, the common clay cradle gunshot victims in their arms. While the mega-wealthy preen and think themselves superior, God’s children build houses for the poor, buy food and gear for needy children, and take action to seek quality education.
While the twisted seek to harm, most people help their neighbors through tough times.
When the US Senate capitulates to the gun lobby, they aren’t defending the US Constitution, or the national interest, or the people who elected them. They are obeying their masters.
Kindness and mercy, most of it never noticed, spring from hearts that are filled with courage, not avarice, and know that their true master is the one who called us “friends.”
By Tom Ehrich