Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.-Matthew 11:28
Two interesting things happened last week.
The first incident occurred last Monday. We usually work in the evenings on Monday. Our time began with a conversation with a drug dealer who controls an area where the homeless children usually stay. We often bothered by this dealer because some of the older teens also work for him. Besides this, he is often seen there with his wife and two little children. It makes us sad to see these two children born into this lifestyle. However, last Monday, he was alone. Usually he avoids talking to us but it was apparent that he wanted to talk to us this time. He told us that his wife got arrested recently and she was in prison. He claimed that he nearly lost both his children as they were with her when she was arrested. Since then, he managed to get his children back from social services and he believes that his wife might be in prison for some time as she is wanted for homicide. We could see that he was feeling vulnerable and we decided to stay and listen. He started opening up about his life. He shared that he got into this lifestyle because of love. He fell in love with his wife who was involved in drug trafficking. We asked him to consider seriously whether the path he is on is a good one for his children. Then the conversation took a bizarre turn. He desperately wanted to prove to us that even though he was drug dealer, he was still a good person. He claimed that once he almost killed someone for robbing what he called a hardworking civilian. He said that it was wrong to rob people of their hard earned money. He thought that dealing with drugs was not really wrong because he does not force anyone to use drugs. Needless to say, we were disturbed by his distorted ethics. It appears that he needed someone whom he considered worse than him to prove that he was indeed a good person. He wanted desperately be a good person even though he was going about it the wrong way.
The second incident occurred partly on the same night. We found our children in a nearby square and they had puppies with them. They told us that they found the puppies abandoned and they decided to adopt them. They were very excited like normal children would be when they get their first pet. The next day we found the children in the same place with the puppies. These children held the puppies close to their chest with one hand and held a bottle of paint thinner in the other. They were high but still very affectionate with the puppies. This scenery itself was surreal and then we saw a well-dressed couple approach the children and start talking with them. From a distance, we could make out that the couple were talking about the puppies. Then there was some money exchanged and the couple took all the puppies with them. They had paid $50 for each puppy and there were three. This was not a good thing because all the money would be spent on drugs. These children even said this in our presence. The couple saw them using drugs and yet they gave them the money anyway. I suppose they did not think about their actions carefully. From where we were standing, this couple thought that the puppies were more important than the children. They did not care if the children got high and died from overdose as long as the puppies were fine. It did not make sense. We were not the only ones that came to this conclusion. There were other social workers who saw this transaction and like us they too were flabbergasted. The couple went home thinking that they were better people than these children because they saved the puppies from them.
For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.-Romans 7:19
The couple and the drug dealer reveal something that is intrinsic in humans. Within us, there is a desire to do good, but having the desire alone is insufficient. Our desires do not necessarily inform us how to accomplish the good we desire to do. The drug dealer uses violence and intimidation to protect his idea of innocent victims. The couple wanted to save the lives of the puppies but they ended up contributing to the self-destruction of the children. All these people want to do good but doing what is right is not easy. The struggle is a real one. Everything seems distorted and confusing. St. Paul was right when he explained the deep inner struggle of the human soul. The good that we want to do is not what we end up doing.
No one deliberately does something evil. Most people think that they are doing something that would help them or others. Sometimes people make very bad decisions thinking that it is going to help them in the long run. Our children are in the streets because they think that this is the best thing for them. Everyone wants to do something good but not everyone knows how to discern what is right and wrong. There are many attempts to provide a foundation for this discernment. The answer does not lie in the actions itself but it has to come from something beyond these actions. The answer is not a mere theological or philosophical exercise but it is crucial for our very existence. Sometimes we hear stories from the older teens themselves that they struggle to know what is the right thing to do. They want to be good people but they just do not know how. This is the burden of being a human. We know in our innermost being that we are the happiest when we do good and our soul wanders aimlessly until we discover how to do it.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.- Matthew 11:27-30
Jesus does not give us a formula or a doctrine. He just points to Himself. He is the answer to knowing what is right or wrong. This is why that no matter how open we are as Christians we cannot succumb to saying that all religions are the same. As Christians, our existence is define through the person of Jesus. The person of Jesus Christ informs our ethical decisions. It is not the doctrine of Jesus but the person of Jesus. It is not a historic person named Jesus but a living person that is experienced through the Holy Spirit by faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is a not a blind leap. It an invitation to an experience to know the One who is able to give us the understanding between right and wrong.
We prayed for the couple and the drug dealer and we also prayed for ourselves. We too need to be constantly renewed in our understanding of what is right and wrong through the living presence of Jesus Christ.