” ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28-30).”
I was talking to an acquaintance the other day, complaining about a personal injustice. This conversation got me steamed.
The more I thought about it, the worse I felt. I was more ashamed of my feelings over the matter than the humiliation I encountered when it happened.
So, I took a l-o-o-n-g walk to cool off. Then I settled down with my books at home. (This is one of the benefits of having no electronic entertainment, save a boom box. I read a lot.)
After that night of reading, I felt even more ashamed of my complaining.
One of the books I read was called “The End of Poverty”. In it the economist Jeffrey Sachs discussed the condition of the world economically.
One-sixth of the world’s population, says Sachs, is still in extreme poverty. This means that they are not even on the ladder to economic survival.
Sachs cites the female garment workers in Bangaladesh as women who are climbing out of extreme poverty and onto the ladder of opportunity. Of course, they have a long way to go.
They walk several hours a day to and from their homes outside of Dhaka to get to work and back. At their jobs they work on clothes for the Europeans and Americans, 12 hours a day for minimal wages.
On the job and in their travels they are subject to sexual harassment. The life is unimaginable to those of us living at least a minimal good life in a developed country and if we have any heart, it makes us sad, or even angry.
In fact, the media and celebrities regularly decry the treatment of women like those in Bangladesh and shame the companies that employ them. Yet, Sachs thinks this outrage is the wrong approach.
He says that these women are actually on the first rung of economic success. Over time and exponentially, they will improve their lot and those around them.
Still, their plight is unjust. So is the situations of countless other people around the globe in worse conditions.
I wish I had more concern for the injustice done to people like the women of South Asia. Instead, I get caught up in my own petty concerns.
As I read the other night, I continued my progress through aother book, a Charles Dickens’ classic called “The Tale of Two Cities”. Somehow I managed to skip a lot of English lit in school, so I guess it’s never too late.
“The Tale of Two Cities” surprised and moved me. It too is about injustice.
Set in Paris and London during the days of the French Revolution, it details the horrors done to people who were not aristocrats. Indeed, Sachs notes that only in the last 200 years has the world begun to develop economically, with the average worker in Europe earning about 90% of what your average African worker does today.
These peasants were fair game for the richer nobility. Indeed, the plot of Dickens’ novel centers around the consequences stemming from the shocking ill treatment of a serf woman and her family by the boys of a French aristocratic family.
However, the revolutionaries that took power during the French Revolution are portrayed by Dickens as equal to their “noble” predecessors in terms of their brutality. They took vengeance on anyone who stood in their way, especially if they were associated with aristocrats.
It didn’t matter if they were guilty of a criminal act or not. It was “off with their heads!”
One of the key figures in “The Tale of Two Cities” is a child of one of the perpetrators of the aforementioned outrage concerning the peasant woman. He grew into a man named Charles Evremonde, called Darnay.
Darnay had rejected his aristocratic upbtinging and moved to England, where he married the daughter of a French doctor who had been imprisoned in the Bastille. However, to save a former servant of his family imprisoned unjustly by the revolutionaries, he returns to France.
There he is through a series of events sentenced by a revolutionary tribunal to be guillotined. Darnay is a good man with a kind wife and a child and has done nothing to deserve execution, except to have been born into the wrong family.
It appears all is lost for Darnay until an old friend comes along and saves the day. Sidney Carton from England, almost a part of the prisoner’s family and formerly entranced with Mrs. Darnay when she was single, manages to substitute himself through trickery for Darnay at the guillotine.
Carton has led a wasted life and he knows it. He is a man with a lot of bad habits. Yet, he sees in this act the possibility for redemption.
Indeed, as he contemplates what he is about to do, Carton walks late at night along the Seine quoting a statement from Jesus:
“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die (John 11:25, 26 Kings James Version).”
As I read this passage, I thought that the term ‘dead’ could be construed in a couple of ways. One is the common biblical idea of being spíritually separated from God. The other is another common usage, which is that of “death to self’ (Luke 9:23.
Carton was ‘dead’ in both ways. He had left a profligate life away from God. However, now he had also chosen to die to himself and sacrifice himself for his friend.
As Carton contemplated this action, he must have felt very lonely. The words of a current pop hit tell of what must have been in his heart:
I don’t wanna be left
In this war tonight
Am I alone in this fight?
Is anybody out there?
Don’t wanna be left left in this world behind
Say you’ll run to my side (Artist: K’NAAN featuring Nelly Furtado)
The complete song describes “losers” in this life´. “Mary” isn’t pretty or popular, and she’s insecure. She can “point a finger, but there’s three pointing back.”
“Adam” is a child totally ignored by his father. He “grew up mad and antisocial” and spent his days playing video games. Drugs were the only way out.
“With one last hope he puts his arms up higher
I can see him crying out, yeah
Is anybody out there?”
Sidney Carton in “The Tale of Two Cities” discovers that there is someone out there. He chooses to believe in His new friend Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life.
Carton gains strength and hope from this verse, taught to him by his father. It carries him through to complete the rescue of Charles Darnay.
Carton had spent a lifetime not trusting and hurting, a victim of his own injustices in life. Then he met Jesus Christ. In effect, Jesus says to him the same words of another recent pop song: