I wrote last week about how the news just keeps coming, and how it’s a beatdown. I can get so discouraged by it. The frenzied outrage over Cecil the lion’s death in contrast to everyday injustices is perplexing, but it reminds me of a story my uncle told me. He was a high school history teacher and found it disturbing that in watching a movie about the Holocaust that the students would visibly and audibly react to Hitler’s dog’s death more than the horrific murder of millions of innocent human beings. The thing is, I think I understand this now. It’s a simple matter of being calloused. We do not often watch movies or play games or read books about dogs or lions being killed. Unfortunately we are all very familiar with the fictional and real destruction of human beings. We cannot go a day without learning about someone being gunned down, without hearing stories of real live children being treated like utter garbage, or babies being savagely pulled apart in the name of “reproductive rights.” We’re calloused. We’ve heard it all before. But a lion being hunted for the fun of it? That’s a whole new concept. Oh yes, Americans can get their judgment on for that.
It makes a certain kind of self-righteous pride rise up in me. C.S. Lewis observed and condemned this tendency. He wrote: “To avoid a man’s society because he is poor or ugly or stupid may be bad; but to avoid it because he is wicked — with the all but inevitable implication that you are less wicked (at least in some respect) is dangerous and disgusting.”
May we not let ourselves foolishly slip into the prideful posture that we could never do that. Because no matter what side you are coming from, the “I could never do that” stance may have a certain pleasure in it but it is untrue (you let enough darkness in your heart, and it will take over — just read Romans 1). That kind of judgment also shuts down the dialog, and sharing the love of Christ means being in relationship. Remember how Jesus associated with the tax collectors (the most hated class of the day), the partiers and the prostitutes? Personally, I’m not doing a great job of building relationship with the crowds Jesus made a point of hanging with. I need to do better.
Praying today that the scales we all have will be removed, that the thick callouses we’ve grown in response to injustice will be sloughed away. Jesus asked His disciples, “Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?” Mark 8:17-18. May we be able to answer Him, “I do understand, help me understand more. My heart has some hard and calloused spots, Lord. Forgive me. Smooth them over with Your love and compassion. Let my eyes see and my ears hear. May I love with Your love.”
Brandon Heath has a catchy song about this principle. Perhaps you’ve heard it. It says, “Give me your eyes for just one second. Give me your eyes so I can see…” He sings about the brokenhearted and the forgotten. But he could sing about abortionists and lion killers, because as unfathomable as some of us may find it, Jesus loves them too. He’s not going to start loving them when they clean up their act. He’s loved them all along. He loves them just as much as He loves you and He paid the price for every sin they’ve ever committed.
The older brother in the story of the prodigal son was none too happy about the mercy offered to his brother. But let us not be like him! May we instead cherish the mercy offered to us and to every person who’s ever lived. If we can’t do that, I’m not sure we get to enter the party. Older brother sulking belies an understanding of one’s own need for forgiveness. Most of all, may we pray fervently that the gift of mercy will be accepted, and that the life-changing work of Jesus will be evident throughout our world.
See you in September!