Amy Carmichael’s words have gripped me ever since I read them 2 months ago.
Born in Ireland, Amy began following Jesus Christ and developed a strong sense of social concern at a young age. She went to India as a missionary in 1895 when she was 29 years old. In 1901, she began working to eradicate the practice of children being dedicated to temple gods by marriage ceremonies. Among other things, once a young girl is dedicated, it is permissible for men to take advantage of the young girl sexually.
Can you imagine living with or trying to serve people who are openly practicing this form of abuse? It may startle you as it startled me to hear how Amy described those people:
“The thing we fight is not India or Indian, in essence or development . . . It is like a parasite which has settled upon the bough of some noble tree – on it, but not of it. The parasite has gripped the bough with strong and interlacing roots, but it is not the bough. We think of the real India as we see it in the thinker – the seeker after the unknown God, with his wistful eyes. ‘The Lord beholding him loved him,’ and we cannot help loving as we look.”
Amy teaches me how to look at the hundreds of thousands of people who live near me who are living life in darkness. She teaches me not to define people by their actions or attitudes, but by the potential for light to overwhelm their darkness.
How about you? How do you feel about people who are doing things that disgust you? People who hurt others and themselves over and over again?
Amy quotes Mark’s description of Jesus when he was talking to the rich young man (the story’s found in Mark 10). Jesus looked at him, knowing his heart was so far from where it needed to be, and loved him.
Isn’t that hard to do? Anyone who has been married longer than a week knows how challenging it is to love someone whose faults are so obvious. It’s the source of a lot of marital conflict – spouses not knowing how to treat their spouse who sins so badly. And that’s why people leave their spouses for other partners who seem to sin so much less!
So you haven’t left your spouse? Well how about your neighbors or co-workers? I want you to notice how you have left the people you live and work with because of how you feel about their sin. Notice today how you feel when you look around your office, or when you drive by your neighbors. How do you feel about the ones, you know, the ones who are really “bad” people.
We can tell we have left people when our words describe them in exclusively pejorative terms. [How do you describe your co-workers, your neighbors, or your family to other people?]
Jesus didn’t leave anyone. He genuinely loved “bad” people. Amy Carmichael loved the “bad” people in India so much she knew that they could be changed if they followed Jesus Christ.
Let’s all start praying that God will fill our hearts with love for people who seem unlovable to us. Think deeply through Amy’s words.
Or think deeply through Jesus’ words, who always says it better than I can: Love your neighbor as yourself. Even the “bad” ones.