When was the last time we asked the Spirit to open our eyes to the hurt that is present outside our church doors?
We often see what we want to see.
Politics seems to be that way in our country right now. Many have decided which political party they support, and are willing to say everything their party says or does is correct while everything the opposing party says is despicable, regardless of the facts of any situation.
Sports is often seen in the same light. If a particular controversial decision by an official helps your team win, then the call was good, while if it hurts your team, the call was bad.
So often we see what we want to see, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that our decision is not correct.
So I wonder, what do we see when we pull up to a traffic light and see someone panhandling for money? What do we see as we are sitting in the coffee shop watching someone walk around asking for spare change? What do we see when we experience someone struggling to find work because of a previous arrest? What do we see when we are at a store and see a mother with three young babies just lose it, and start screaming in the store? What do we see when the children who sit beside us at McDonald’s are wearing clothing that is clearly filthy?
What do we see? Is it just someone who doesn’t want to go get a job so they beg for money? Is it just someone who is lazy? Is it someone who is suffering from their own poor choices? Is it someone who is clearly a bad parent or who doesn’t really care for their children?
What do we see? Do we see that they had to drop out of college because they couldn’t get the money to finish paying for school, and now they are stuck in a career that will never pay the bills? Do we see that they made one mistake when they were 19 years old and sadly their mistake got them in trouble with the law while our mistakes went unnoticed? Do we see that this mother was deserted by her husband, and he never sends support or comes to help, and she’s trying to work but her paycheck just goes to cover childcare and she doesn’t know where to turn? Do we see that maybe we’ve lucked out and gotten some extra breaks that others didn’t get because they are stuck in generational poverty, or the color of their skin has caused them to not catch the breaks we’ve caught, or they got sick without insurance and that put them in a downward spiral financially that they’ve never been able to recover from?
When we see someone else who is clearly in pain, what do we see?
There are no easy answers to these situations, and every situation is different. However, it’s often easy to assume that others have chosen to be in positions of pain and brokenness. No one chooses brokenness. Sometimes our choices lead to brokenness, but sometimes our brokenness is caused by factors beyond our control. The question is not simply what causes the brokenness, but when we see others in pain, what do we see?
Part of the beauty of the incarnation is that God came to dwell with us. As John says, the Word took on flesh. God saw us in our brokenness and choose to be present with us in the midst of our pain. God shared humanity with us, becoming one of us, identifying with us in a very real and tangible way. God didn’t say, fix yourself and then come into my temple. Instead, Jesus came in the flesh in order to tabernacle with humanity; to dwell with humanity. Jesus joined us in our pain and brokenness, knowing that it is only through presence that pain and hurt can be redeemed. In so doing, Jesus shows us one way to address the hurt and pain in our world; to be present. Just as Jesus took on flesh to dwell with us, we as image bearers of God are called to take the Spirit who dwells in us and to be present with those hurting in the world.
God isn’t asking us to solve world hunger, end poverty and racism, and bring justice to the world. Those tasks are ultimately too big for us to accomplish alone. However, God is calling us to be present. To open our eyes to the least of these, and to be present with them in the name of Jesus. To share love with them. To honor them as fully human, and worthy of respect. To be the physical presence of God for them.
God, send the Spirit to open our eyes to the hurt that sits right outside our church doors, and give us the courage to be present with the love of God in each situation.