I was walking through the upper shopping level of Midtown Plaza on Wednesday and noticed an elderly Sikh couple standing at the top of an escalator. The man made a few false starts, then grasped the moving handrail and stepped firmly on to the joint between two treads. He almost lost his balance as the front tread dropped away from under his feet, but found his footing and rode safely down. His wife watched, then put her foot forward and quickly pulled it back. She was almost blocking access to the escalator as she repeated this manoeuvre several times. None of those waiting seemed impatient, all tried in some way to be helpful. Finally a man stepped on in front of her and motioned her to follow. He kept an eye on her all the way down to see that she didn’t lose her balance, then went his way. I was touched by the patience and kindness shown by busy people to this old couple who were obviously new to this part of the world.
The news media had been carrying stories for several days about five young teens who had ventured out on a lake in northern Saskatchewan and disappeared. They had been found the previous day on an island, where they had broken into a wilderness resort for shelter and food. On Wednesday it was reported that there appeared to be a lot more damage to the resort lodge than would have been necessary for mere survival.
An hour after witnessing the scene at the Midtown, I was sipping a coffee in a Christian book store. Not far from me, two elderly couples were discussing the news of the lost teens and the damage to the lodge. “They ought to be horsewhipped!” one man said.
As Christians we endeavour to inculcate principles of good behaviour and respect for the property of others. This is as it should be. Does this then give us authority to judge others for every deviation from our standard? The contrast between the two scenes was stark: patient compassion on one hand and impatient condemnation on the other.
The man went on to explain himself. I didn’t hear nearly all of what he said, but it seemed that in his own eyes he was being completely fair and reasonable. But the news reports haven’t even revealed what kind of damage was done, and it’s not an established fact that these young people were responsible for all the damage. It could be that they broke into a liquor cabinet and had a wild party. But we don’t know that.
What would an unbeliever have concluded if he had been able to observe both scenes? That non-Christians are kind, caring and compassionate and Christians are not? That surely is not the impression we want to give.
“To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15).
“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:29). We should never take this to mean that we must be more self-righteous than the scribes and Pharisees.