Not too long ago, a friend made a remark to me, the implication of which I knew to be judgmental. Unlike me, my friend is very active in volunteering. He admires others who are also active and does not admire those who are not. That’s his standard. It’s a standard he applies to himself, but it’s also one he applies, consciously or not, to others.

Okay. I know people who are active volunteers and who have all the lovingkindness of a scorpion. They are fond of quoting St. James. But I remember the Lord’s comment on this sort of thing: Lord, didn’t we do all these good things in your name, feed the hungry, house the homeless, visit the prisoner, and everything? And he replied, “Depart from me. I know you not.”

Now why is that? I know the Lord loves these people, but I don’t think he loves them because they volunteer all the time. Doing good feels good, and I think that’s their real reward. And if you do good things, you don’t have to know him. And by extension, you don’t have to love him—or anyone else, for that matter.

I used to have an aunt who was a “clean freak.” She had to have everything always immaculately clean. She made a remark once about heaven, and I heard my uncle mutter, “Heaven’ll have to be very dirty to suit Jean. Otherwise, it’ll be hell for her.” There’s a connection between my aunt and my friend. Heaven for my aunt will be dirty; for my friend, it will be full of poor people, sick, hungry, or homeless.

You have to accept people like my friend as they are, even though they don’t accept you. They demand that you be like them; if you’re not, you’re unacceptable. My mother knew the Lord better than many. Once, when she’d fallen on hard times, she exclaimed, “Lord, deliver me from good people!” And I get that. I loved my Aunt Jean, but I didn’t like to go to her house; I was always afraid I’d get something dirty. I still love my friend (and admire him), but I don’t spend much time with him anymore. I always seem to come away feeling bad.