(Image: The Good Samaritan by Balthasar van Cortbemde (1647))

5 min • January 6, 2022

Imagine you’re lined up in a race, and it’s about to start. 3… 2… 1… GO! You all run! But one guy… he takes off his shoe and throws it at his own foot!

It makes no sense! Why would he do that? He needed his shoe on to run. And he wasted time by taking the shoe off. And he hurt his foot, so it can’t run as well. Everything is going all wrong!

This is what sin really is. Now, look at this poor man. Someone lied to him and told him he would win the race easier if he did this, and the poor man believed it.

So, should you go up to him and berate him for it? Should you scold him for doing this? No, of course not! He’s already plenty embarassed, plus he’s lost the lead in the race by far.

Plus, if he was confused enough to believe this lie, that this would help him win the race, then he’s not going to understand you when you try to explain to him that it’s not going to help.

What will happen instead is that he’s going to get angry at you, because you’re not helping him catch up, and you’re distracting him while he’s trying to run.

This is why we must have compassion on someone who has sinned. All of us are constantly making mistakes, “for we all make many mistakes” says St. James. We are very easily confused and misled.

Some people will tell you that you should not call certain things “sins”. They’re trying to say what I just told you right now, so in that sense they’re right.

But you should know what things are sins. Because if you deny that it’s counterproductive to take your shoe off and throw it at your own foot in a race, you’re not going to win any races.

This is where that old fashioned word “righteousness” comes from. It just means “doing things the right way”, or in other words, “not doing things like throwing your shoe at your own foot in a race.” Because that’s not gonna be very helpful.

Be patient with yourself when you make mistakes, and be patient with others when they do. Remember that they’re having just as hard a time as you are, probably harder actually, in figuring out how to win this race.

This is one reason why you must not judge. There are some people who will judge a woman as being not good because she has short hair. This is very silly, not because short hair is good or bad. But because you can’t see into this poor woman’s heart and mind, and what her reasons are. Maybe she figures God loves short hair! Maybe she read it in a book, or one of her friends told her!

There are many things which are not sins at all. Do not make there be sins where there are none, or you’re not going to be very good friends with Jesus, who would have you do quite the opposite.

And even if you’re very sure something is a sin, how can you possibly get angry?

If you’re in that race, and this poor person is behind you in the race, because he did the shoe thing, how can you get angry at him for it? You have the lead, and he’s far behind! And not because you’re better than him. In fact, he’s a faster runner than you! It’s just the shoe thing that set him back.

So, when someone sins, or is living in sin, how can you have any other feeling than sadness for them? They are lost sheep. They’re feeding on dirt and mud in a cave, instead of the fresh grass in the field with the Good Shepherd. They’re going to get sick from this! Oh, have mercy on these poor souls. Do not be angry at them.

As if the good you had depended on them having more good than they have! Isn’t God the author and creator of all good things? Didn’t St. Paul say, “he who even gave us his own Son, will he not also give us all things with him?”

Yes, just as the Holy Spirit said to the Hebrews, “may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the Sheep, by the Blood of the Eternal Covenant, equip you with everything good, that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight.”

God will give us everything good. We do not need to worry about whether other people stop sinning for our sake. No, our happiness does not depend on if they win or fail. We will be happy as long as we have Jesus in our hearts, and our hearts in Jesus. This is your and my only happiness.

But we can increase this happiness by helping others to get closer to the finish line with us. This race is a marathon. It doesn’t just have one winner. Anyone who crosses the finish line will win, and will celebrate together.

So out of love for Jesus, who wants everyone to win this race, first you must try to win, and focus on yourself. That means you must know what is sin, and what is not.

Then, if you have figured anything out, and someone asks you how you’re not tripping on the race field so much, you can explain to him that the shoe trick isn’t actually helpful.

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