Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Harassed and Helpless

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:35-36)

Harassed and helpless is how the Gospel of Matthew describes the crowds, and thus describes us the same. You could replace that with going to 'Hell in a hand basket' for another alliteration that describes us pretty well. No doubt the news is depressing. Maybe it's becoming more so, or the instant access to information that the Internet and 24-hour news brings more of the worst to light. But as has been true for two thousand years, our world acts as sheep without a shepherd.

There's been a string of tragedies that show just how helpless we are without Jesus. You've no doubt heard about the student at Yale who was killed by a 'control freak', or the honor student in Chicago that was killed for only being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But those headlines were followed by a case at UCLA similar to that at Yale, and a group lighting a teen on fire because he stopped some other kids from stealing his dad's bike. Fortunately in the last two cases, the victim survived.

I wrote before about 'hate crimes' and how really any crime can be a hate crime, regardless of race or sexual orientation. In context of Jesus' teachings, hate and anger equate to murder, even if that act isn't carried out. It's easy to look at the above crimes as hate-filled, but that won't qualify them as 'hate crimes'.

Maybe we're wrong to focus on hate. I've heard this before, but Chrystie's post in response to Peter's blog carnival reminded me that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. The way I remember hearing it before is that the opposite of love is apathy. Maybe there should be 'apathy crimes' legislation?

I say this because most crimes like those above are completely indifferent to the victim. The motive of the accused range from emotional impulse to territorialism/tribalism. At either extreme is a disregard for the sanctity of human life. Pope John Paul II often preached on overcoming the "Culture of death" with a "Culture of Life". Often that message was narrowed down to abortion and euthanasia. But it extends further to crimes against our fellow man and acts such as abortion and euthanasia are only symptoms of the culture. Why would we bring a child into this world if we can't afford him or if she would be an inconvenience? Obviously that shows a lack of value of life. Why shouldn't I kill this woman because she turned me down or why shouldn't I light this kid on fire because he kept me from taking what I want? Again, the same attitude in the heart.

So what do we do? We need to view the world through Jesus' eyes and see all life as being sacred. No possession, emotion, or political issue is worth another's life. All of us are just sheep. Let's keep from slaughtering each other.

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