Have you ever heard of a Procrustean bed? If not, you’re not alone, so I’ll explain. Procrustes was a famous villain in a Greek mythological fairy tale. He lived in the mountains between Athens and Eleusis, where there was a road called the Sacred Way. It was an arduous journey to the top, and he owned an inn there where he would draw people in to rest and sleep. The problem was that beds in his hotel never quite fit the travelers who sought respite. Very aware of this problem, the villainous innkeeper would physically alter his guests instead of providing furniture to fit them. If a bed was too long, he would stretch someone’s legs, or if it was too short, he would cut off their limbs. In his attempts to “help” his patrons, Procrustes ended up torturing them instead. Gruesome, yes, but powerful in what it teaches us about relating to others. You see, there’s always a temptation to try and make people fit our mold. On a large scale, we see this in governments, churches, and in education, and on a personal level, we see it when we require that someone look or act a particular way in order to earn our love, respect, or approval. In any form, this behavior is soul-killing and life-stealing torture to the one being made to “fit” where they don’t, and it’s the opposite of what Jesus taught us. The One who ate with tax collectors and sinners established a Kingdom that includes every age, race, and nation on earth!
My friend, in these days of division and disunity, the Lord is beckoning you to be a source of unconditional love and dignity. Yes, it’s good to have convictions and it’s critical to know what you believe, but don’t let judgement get in the way of honoring the intrinsic value of every human being. Even if your views are as different as night and day, when you look at your neighbor, train yourself to see in them the treasure that Jesus does. While it’s tempting to jump on a bandwagon and ride only with those who share your position, it’s best let your character be shaped by embracing the ones with whom you have little in common. Only by building a bridge can you offer others the opportunity to cross to the other side, and only by letting your faith be manifest in love will you have the opportunity to share the God who embodies it.