“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” is how Charles Dickens started his classic “A Tale Of Two Cities.”
A conflict between family and love, hatred and oppression, good versus evil, light compared to darkness, and wisdom’s balance with folly. Dickens tells his tale of a vision that human prosperity cannot be matched with human need, despair, or depression. Something has to give. Right...?
Well, without reading aloud or quoting the great novel in its entirety — the two main moral themes from Dickens’ classic are the possibility of redemption and the importance of compassion. In other words, finding hope and good in all people and in dire situations.
In reading through the Bible on a yearly basis, I usually dread getting to the Book of Leviticus. Just the third book of the Bible, it’s a book of do’s and don’ts. With major consequences for those who don’t.
God tells the Israelites what will happen to them if they obey or refuse to obey his law. Similar to today’s society given the fact that the law was created to be upheld by those who fear the punishment of that very law.
But that is a raw and somewhat ignorant overview. Basically missing the entire point of not only Leviticus, but the complete writings of God. Dickens and God, you see, preach the same message in each of their classics: Dickens’ “A Tale Of Two Cities,” and God’s Bible, each speak to the greater need for both — redemption and compassion. For, two-thirds of the way through Leviticus right out of nowhere God says — and by the way, Love your neighbor as yourself!
Redemption and compassion. Love your neighbor. Love yourself. As if each author were sounding an alarm saying, we can’t do one without the other. Whatever “it” is in our life, society, or neighborhood, it cannot be totally figured out without human kindness and compassionate togetherness. This is the crux of human belonging. Redemptive compassion. Loving a neighbor who looks, acts, and thinks differently than us may be a challenge. It may also be very rewarding.
God and Dickens both relate this in their very own way. Bill Withers, the Grammy award-winning songwriting singer, who recently passed away penned it likewise when he sang his classic song “Lean On Me”.
So, what if... What if we lovingly, compassionately, let our neighbor lean on us?
That’s when redemption truly starts.
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