This CoffeeBreak is not sweet, nor is it uplifting. The video of a man dying on a Minneapolis street with the knee of another uniformed man pressed into his neck haunts me this morning. I do not know how the man in custody came to be lying there, nor why 4 officers felt a need to restrain him. What I cannot escape are the empty eyes of the man who let another die under his knee as people pled with him.
He stared back at a crowd which included children, stuck his hand in his pocket in the most casual way, and the man died while people cried. Today my guess is that he rationalizes what he did by saying he was ‘just doing his job.’ It’s a line with a long history. Many of those charged with war atrocities in the 20th century offered the defense of ‘just following orders,’ another way to say ‘just doing my job.’
We like to characterize those who commit terrible acts as monsters, don’t we? We want to be convinced that they must be horrible and twisted in some way that distinguishes them from us; except that they are not. Acts may be monstrous but they are done by human beings who eat, sleep, breath, have families just like you and me. Evil is real. Apart from God’s redemptive good, it grows like mold, killing us inside out. When we allow ourselves to be dehumanized by a society that turns us into a cog in the machine, evil flourishes. When we let ourselves be convinced that hurting another is just part of our job, we become capable of terrible things.
Evil gives us empty eyes. We cannot see the cost to others in what we do, cannot appreciate the humanity of another, are blinded to the suffering that comes from our words and actions.
Those eyes that are empty of empathy are far more common than we like to admit. Who among us can honestly say we have not demeaned another?
Perhaps it is ‘just a joke’ about someone that makes them less.
Perhaps it is the rage of a spouse that allows him to have his own way in the household.
Perhaps it is the subtle snub of someone we think is lesser in some way.
Perhaps it is the manipulative action of a supervisor that steals the dignity of a laborer.
Perhaps it is the religious intolerance that makes ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ with dogma.
Some men dragged a woman ‘caught in adultery’ to Jesus for judgment. With empty eyes they demanded that He judge her, too, because this was the ‘the Law.’ But Jesus truly saw her, loved her, and asked the same of her accusers. “See yourselves first. Are you without sin?” He asked. “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7-8, NIV) Seeing, they slipped away, leaving Him to offer redemption to the woman.
Ah, those Eyes of Jesus. May we see as He sees.
The wisdom literature of the Word reminds us of a choice to make. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.” (Proverbs 4:23-25, NIV) What are you allowing to fill your inner thoughts? Jesus was clear that what we say is clear evidence of what we think! Listen to your unguarded words and you will get a glimpse of your soul’s content.
Here is where it gets hopeful. We are not helpless before evil. Hearts can be renewed, empty eyes can see again. There is a Savior, a Healer, the Lord of Love and Life.
Of Him, Paul writes “God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and by him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of his blood on the cross. This includes you who were once so far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through his death on the cross in his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” (Colossians 1:18-22, NLT)
And when we come to Him and find forgiveness and new life, we then can see. So, “Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” (Ephesians 5:1-2, The Message)
Lord I come to You
Let my heart be changed renewed
Flowing from the grace
That I found in You
And Lord I’ve come to know
The weaknesses I see in me
Will be stripped away
By the pow’r of Your love
Hold me close
Let Your love surround me
Bring me near
Draw me to Your side
And as I wait
I’ll rise up like the eagle
And I will soar with You
Your Spirit leads me on
In the pow’r of Your love
Lord unveil my eyes
Let me see You face to face
The knowledge of Your love
As You live in me
Lord renew my mind
As Your will unfolds in my life
In living ev’ry day
By the pow’r of Your love
Geoff Bullock © 1992 Geoff Bullock Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)
CCLI License # 810055