Right now, you feel comfortable reading further because you’re confident that I’m only speaking in generalities, or about “others,” the ones with murderous hands. Please keep reading, but don’t expect much comfort. Murderous hearts are the greater concern.
Since Cain killed Abel, humans have found ways to extinguish other lives. We don’t know if Cain used a crude weapon or his bare hands. Doesn’t matter. That first murder was face-to-face, personal, and the template for all murders to come.
Murder isn’t as mysterious as we make it out to be.
The apostle John explains the first murder to us this way: “For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.” 1 John 3:11-12 ESV
Cain loved himself more than he loved his brother. Abel’s righteousness ate at Cain. Cain knew he looked bad, and Abel made him look worse. Rather than seek righteousness or clean up his own act, Cain snuffed out his brother. Why not? It’s easier, right?
Since Cain’s day, we haven’t improved at seeking righteousness, but we have become more adept at murder.
Daily, we hear of shootings, bombings, gang violence, and terrorist plots. Those murders make headlines, but they aren’t the kind of systemic, stealthy, insidious killings that are far more prevalent in our times.
Most prevalent are murders that occur because one human (like Abel) makes another human (or group of humans) (like Cain) look bad (or feel bad), simply by existing. Totalitarian governments oppress and imprison to control those who don’t toe the party line. When they get out of hand, though, to keep the despot or party from looking bad, lives are quietly disposed of somewhere out of sight.
We know this happens, but it’s far away. Out of our control. Most of us still feel pretty comfy in this reading, but it gets worse. Closer to home.
We’re keenly aware that millions of unborn children around the globe (or down the street) are quietly destroyed, deemed unworthy to take their first breath. This has become so commonplace, it almost annoys polite society to bring it up. Abortion, oh, that again? Are you still harping on that? I try not to be political.
But, it’s not political. It’s personal. It’s personal because there are persons involved –persons die. Persons that might otherwise be celebrated, embraced, wrapped in swaddling blankets, named, loved.
But, now, this depersonalization of certain humans, spreads like gangrene, because that’s what it does, don’t you know? Once we accept the dehumanization of one segment of society, it’s easier to turn our backs on more.
Our enemy knows this. He’s aware that if he can get us to harden our hearts in one direction, they’ll be more likely to harden in others, too. In this way, he can use us to do his work – that of destroying us – God’s creation – humanity.
Are there people who make us sad? Uncomfortable? Feel limited? Lacking in power, sufficient resources, or answers? Maybe, just maybe, it would be better if they stopped being around. You know, for their sakes.
Children identified in utero with severe birth defects. Infants with incapacitating illnesses or handicaps. The very, very old. The mentally ill. The seriously depressed. The incurable. The incorrigible. The unwelcome. Where does it end?
The accuser whispers potential victims to our hardened hearts until more and more people appear to deserve to die.
When a society loses its understanding that there is a greater power to whom we all answer, then life is at the mercy of our arrogance.
We can’t cure you? Heal you? Save you? Straighten you out? Manage you? Afford you? Correct you? House you? Bring you back from that dark place in your mind? Ahh, well, we’re reached the end of our abilities, so maybe it’s time for you to exit stage left. If you hang around, if you linger, if you outstay your quality of life (or compromise ours)– well, it just makes us look bad, doesn’t it?
And when we stop taking our cues from a God who values love over achievement, well, maybe then, caretaking isn’t a priceless act of mercy, sacrifice, or meaning. It’s simply a drain on society’s resources and should be limited – severely limited.
It’s happening more often. I’ve witnessed countless, everyday cruelties in situations of people in authority, or in helping professions, clergy, medical staff, caretakers, who reach their end with someone. “That’s it. I’m done. I’m out. There’s nothing else I can do for this person. I’m sorry. Don’t call me again.”
Leaving one or two of us standing beside another human being at a loss. And all I can think is, “But, this person still exists. This soul is still here. He or she still needs food, shelter, water, care, more – even more.” I stop myself from asking “what would you have us do now?” for fear what they might answer.
But, I know from the looks in everyone else’s eyes, this person has already ceased to exist.
We’re learning how to kill you while you still live and breathe. We’re learning how to sleep at night while you suffer alone. We’re learning how, like Pilate, to wash our hands of your blood and turn you over to the screaming mob. Boy, are we on the wrong side of that power grid.
I’m uncomfortable now because spots of gangrene appear on my soul. Every time we harden our hearts against another human. Every time we choose our own anger over forgiveness, service, and compassion. Every time we consider another hurting, needing, wanting human outside the scope of our mercy because we don’t have the answers for their problem, we become that much better at murdering them in our hearts.
Which is where death is conceived, you see.
Love is the only remedy for murder in its earliest forms. Seek the cure, loved ones. Seek the cure.
— Lori Roeleveld (@lorisroeleveld) August 1, 2017