Kempis’s words remind us of the old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Wouldn’t life be so much easier if everyone agreed with me and did as I desired them to do? Don’t they know that I know best? And when things don’t fall precisely in line for me, then I might spout Jean-Paul Sartre famous and oft-quoted line, “Hell is other people.”
Kempis, in this chapter (1,16), tells us we gain merit by our patience and exercise of virtue in our challenges with others. No, it is not hell, but our duty, our command, to love others and bring a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven to them with the goal of bringing them to eternal glory with us. Both Kempis and James (2:1-9) speak of the law. We are constrained by the law…of love. Being transgressors of this law, means conviction and punishment.
The tie-in of the two excerpts is clear: Kempis speaks of dealing with the “defects” of others. James speaks of partiality, especially regarding having a dim view of the poor. Aren’t those of a lesser stature in society an easy target for our ire? Poor breeding? From the other side of the tracks? Lacking ambition? Lazy? Stupid?
Is this a Christian approach? Is this showing love of neighbor? Is this not making judgments, often with little information and based on stereotypes?
May such talk and attitudes never be found among us! Remember, there, but for the grace of God, go I.