A lot of Jesus’ maxims seem entirely unreasonable and impossible to live out–until you actually do.
Take forgiveness. In Matthew 18, Peter poses the question: just how many times should you forgive someone? You can almost hear his train of thought as he asks.
“Once? Certainly once. You can’t be forgiving if you never forgive a single time. Twice? Three times? Isn’t it a just a little ridiculous to imagine forgiving the same person more than that? What’s the most you could possibly be reasonably expected to forgive someone? Five times? Six? Surely no more than seven times, right?”
Perhaps Peter had in mind one person in particular when he posed this question. Perhaps he was struggling to forgive someone in his own life who had sinned against him again and again and again.
Whatever the pretext, the answer Jesus gives is certainly unexpected. He says to forgive not just seven, but seventy times seven times. In other words, you never stop forgiving. There never does come a time when it becomes okay to hold a grudge against someone.
It sounds so unreasonable. Who can be forgiving all the time?
But then, when you actually do end up forgiving someone, especially someone who has hurt you again and again and again, it feels great. Unreasonable, but great.
Likewise, altruism may also seem unreasonable. Most people wouldn’t object to slipping a few dollars in the Salvation Army pail at Christmas or writing a check to the Red Cross when natural disasters, like the recent earthquake in Haiti, are in the news. But some are unwilling to take seriously Jesus’ commands to “love your neighbor as yourself” when obedience requires a real personal sacrifice.
But as Nicholas Kristof explains in his Jan. 16 column, studies have shown that giving to others actually triggers the same pleasure portions of the brain as eating and sex. Altruism, then, can be thought of not just as a noble desire, but also as a selfish pleasure.
If you’re looking for a way to put Jesus’ words into practice–and give yourself a little feel-good boost–now is a better time than any to give to the relief efforts in Haiti. You can send $10 to the American Red Cross by texting “Haiti” to 90999; Catholic Relief Services and UNICEF USA, among others, are accepting donations for Haiti as well.
If you’re looking for a way to give a little closer to home, consider giving to the Capital Area Food Bank, which serves 21 Central Texas counties and provided more than 23 million pounds of food to hugry mounths last year.