Not Afraid to Look
Jesus entered the house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.
When 130 people died in the Paris bombings in December, prominent buildings across the world were lit up in the colors of the French flag and Facebook created a feature where people could overlay the French flag on their profile picture. Here at church we had a special prayer time in worship. When 50 people died in the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub last month, there were rainbow flags and prayer vigils across the nation. In response, we hung flags, rang bells, held special services and continue to process and mourn. All of that was right and good and necessary.
On June 28, 239 people were injured and 42 killed in an attack on the Ataturk Airport in Turkey; three days later a 12-hour siege of a café in Bangladesh left 22 dead and another city terrorized; 2 days after that, a car bomb went off in a crowded shopping center in Bagdad, killing 250 people, many children, who were out celebrating Ramadan. No buildings were lit up in these nations’ flag colors; Facebook didn’t create a special profile picture and we the church were silent. Why?
Since I began writing this, two black men have been shot at close range by police officers; neither of whom posed any threat to the officers. Again, we are silent. Why?
At first, Jesus wanted to ignore the woman who came to him, begging him to save her daughter. He was tired of people needing him and he was looking for a break. Compassion fatigue is a real thing, for Jesus and for us. And modern communication gives us the ability (and burden) to hear and see so much suffering, instantaneously.
But there’s another force at work in Jesus’ interaction. His reply to the woman suggests that he was shaped by the prejudices of his era and saw her as an “other,” less worthy of his care. Is this part of our silence as well? Does the distance—geographic, religious, cultural, racial—lessen our compassion or even harden our hearts?
I wish I had some comforting and encouraging words to offer or some action to point us toward, but I don’t. I can’t get past the horror of these events and of our relative silence. Perhaps that is right where we need to be. Our summer worship theme is “Not Afraid to Look;” may it be so. May we not be afraid to see the world as it is. May we not be afraid to see the complicity of our silence. May we not be afraid to look, because when we do, we meet God face to face; when we do, we witness God's heart breaking and God's mercy flowing; when we do, we can be transformed.
Prayer: Holy God, keep our eyes and hearts open, to your broken yet beloved world. Drench us in your grace and make us agents of your healing love. In Christ's name, amen.