As we enter into the week that Christians have called holy–or terrible or amazing or horrifying or passion–I’d like to start these next days leading to Easter by thinking about the words of Howard Thurman. Thurman was a pastor-scholar who, among his many accomplishments, taught at Howard University and Boston University and started the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples. I encourage you to ponder his words. As a pastor, theologian, and teacher, Thurman pushed people to think of Jesus and his ministry to the disinherited. You can read more about him by clicking here. This meditation comes from Deep Is The Hunger, and every sentence is thick to me. I hope you find it penetrating.
One of the great gifts of God to man is the sense of concern that one individual may develop for another, the impulse toward self-giving that finds its ultimate fulfillment in laying down one’s life for his friend. It is difficult to keep the sense of concern free from those subtle desires to place another under obligation, and thereby stifle and strangle that which one wishes to bless and heal. When I ask myself why I try to help others, what reply do I get? Is it merely an effort on my part to build up my own sense of significance? Am I trying to prove my own superiority? When I do something for another which involves a clear definitive act of concern on my part, do I spoil it by saying to myself or to another, “Look what I did for him. And now he treats me as he does”? Or do we say, “After all I have done for him, he should do anything I ask of him”? Is our sense of concern used as a means for gaining power over others? To be able to give oneself without expecting to be paid back, to love disinterestedly but with warmth and understanding, is to be spiritually mature and godlike and to lay hold on the most precious possessions vouchsafed to the human race.