Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Brief Reflection on Why Be Good to Others

I have in my "file of quotes" something that author and motivational speaker Leo Buscaglia wrote:

"The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around. It's overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt."
I don’t know a great deal about Leo Buscaglia and I never read his books, but my impression is that he was a humanist in the most basic meaning of that term: "a person having a strong interest in or concern for human welfare, values, and dignity."

I don’t intend to write at this moment about humanism and the different philosophies this term can describe. For example, there is a Christian humanism that sees human welfare, values and dignity as grounded in belief in God as revealed in Christ Jesus. The other kind of humanism, which is regularly condemned by certain Christians, is secular humanism. It has no place for God or the supernatural in human affairs.

What interests me about the above quote is that Buscaglia doesn’t mention God at all nor why should we care whether our opportunities to touch someone, share a smile, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring make someone else’s life happier or better?

In seminary I was first confronted with the idea in moral studies that a good moral life is not restricted only to Christians. Many religious groups are concerned with morality; there are even atheists who are very moral. And all these persons may be living exactly the same kind of moral life. So what is unique to Christian morality?

That’s what we had to consider. And the answer was very insightful for me. The difference lies in what motivates the Christian to be moral, caring, good, compassionate, just, compared to what motivates the atheist. The difference for us is that commitment to Christ obliges us to hold all persons as sacred and created in God’s image and that Christ mandated (commanded us) to love one another as he loved us.(John 13:34-35: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.")

For the Christian, we do not have a choice as to whether to be compassionate and moral–not if we are going to truly follow Christ which is the subject of choice. (Of course we always may choose between good and evil; but I mean here that being good to others is not otional with Christ. He did not say "A new suggestion I give you"! Rather a new commnadment.)

An atheist has no particular mandate to be moral, but quite often an atheist can be very moral. Of course I’m sure an atheist might be able to enlighten me as to why they have reasons to be good; but we Christians believe we must be good because Christ came to make it possible for us to so and the greatest good is love, for God is love." (1 John 4:16)

I hope you find this informative. See also my section on the webpage on "God's Call to Justice (Right Realationship) and Compassion" Here