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We tend to judge the world on the basis of our own experience of it. So if we have experienced love and justice, we think the world is a good place to live, and the people in it are basically kind and fair. But much of the world experiences injustice and persecution day after day and year after year. To them our talk of love and justice seems a mockery.

We have been opposed by the very people we have tried to help in India. And we have seen this same ugly spirit when we have tried to help street people in the US and Britain, or Aborigines in Australia. The attitude is, "Give us your money and leave us alone!" Even if we do give, they demand more.

This is the dark side of human nature, and it seems to show most clearly in the poor. They can be so ungrateful. They can be so demanding. They can be so difficult to love.

Yet Jesus said nice things about them: "Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Luke 6:20) If they are the worst specimens of human nature, why are they blessed by the Son of God?

Because we judge by outward appearances. Outwardly, the poor can be so ugly. But consider the attitude of the rich nations to the poor nations. Don't we say, "Give us your wealth, your academics, your technology, but don't ask anything from us in return"? And when they have given so much rubber, tea, coffee, timber, woodpulp, and textiles that their own people are dying from malnutrition, don't we demand more?

The dark side is there in all of us. And Jesus saw that the obvious sins of the poor were easier to deal with than the covered sins of the rich. It's easy to turn against the poor when they return hatred for love. And it's easy to think that people who greet us with smiles when we come into their shops in Australia are the nice people of the world.

But when we do this, we are judging the world on the basis of our limited experience of it. Those of us who sit at the top of the heap have not experienced the injustice and persecution that exists at the bottom of the heap --injustices that we and our nice neighbours have (often unknowingly) contributed to.

Yes, if the poor of India starve to death after biting the hands that have tried to feed them, then they are getting what they deserve. But if we who have become rich at the expense of the poor and who think we should be thanked for giving a small portion back to our victims... if we starve to death, then we too are getting what we deserve.

The Bible says that we have all sinned. Despite our respectability, we all deserve to die for what we have done. Only the supernatural love of God can reverse the dark side of our nature, first by forgiving us for all of our sins, and then by enabling us to see the potential in all the other apparently hopeless cases that surround us.

It's hard for us to appreciate just how undeserving we are of God's love (which is why Christ held out more hope that the poor would recognise their obvious sins), but when we do see our greed for what it is, and when we realise that God loves us anyway, it'll be a lot easier to love others. When we've experienced love and mercy, it becomes easier to believe others will respond to it too... even if it does seem to be taking forever!

(See also Self-Righteousness.)

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