From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view;
even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view,
we know him no longer in that way. 2 Cor. 5:6
Most Christians never consider the extent of dysfunction in the early Church. They tend to think of congregational arguments and fighting as a more recent trend in Christianity. However, Paul’s letters to the Corinthians proves we Christians have been mastering the art of dysfunction for almost 2000 yrs.
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians attempts to deal with interpersonal conflict among members in the community. He urges them to see their unity in Christ. In the second letter, their anger has been turned from the message to the messenger, Paul. In the face of personal criticism, Paul calls the community to reconciliation. In order to reconcile, according to Paul, we need to see each other differently. We need to see Christ in our neighbor to help us see Christ in ourselves. So he writes, from now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view.
These words came to mind this past week when I read the story about a Minneapolis police officer tweeting instructions on how to run over Black Lives Matter protesters with a car. If that were not enough, the officer also provided instructions on how to get away with it. There are so many levels of sadness in this story it is hard to know where to begin. It is sad that it happened on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s reprehensible that the instructions were coming from someone called to protect and serve. But it’s increasingly disturbing how easily we can reduce human life to something that can be taken away.
The tweet reminds us, at least in terms of race, while we may someday overcome, we have not yet. Like the Corinthian community, we have a dedication to an argument that just won’t go away. Is it possible to do what Paul invites us to do; regard no one from a human point of view? And, what would that look like?
To view someone from a human point of view is to place them in a category. Categories help us detach from the burden of an emotional relationship with another human being. The image of a dead child on a beach unleashes our emotions. We see in that image a life, the vulnerability of a infant, and the yearning to know who could cause such pain. But if we can view that image from a human point of view we can categorize it. Properly categorized, we are now talking about a poverty-stricken, Syrian, Muslim. Then that child’s poverty is a threat to our economy, his nationality is a threat to our national security and his faith is a threat to Christianity. See how easy it is to no longer see the gift of life? How easy it is to be deaf towards Jesus’ command, “But I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…for if you only love those who love you, what reward do you have?”
Our country is divided over how we categorize the Black Lives Matter movement. If you can, I would like to ask you to put away your human point of view for a moment to see Tamir Rice. Tamir Rice was the 12 yr. old black boy shot and killed by two white Cleveland Police officers in 2014. From a human point of view, all we need to hear is white police officers; black male with a gun and automatically the shooting is justified. But, if we no longer regard anyone from human point of view, we might get to the truth. Tamir was a child, playing with a toy in a park designed to provide children the freedom to play. Those who were supposed to keep that park safe shot him.
Tamir is the person I see when I think about Jesus teaching his disciples, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Tamir is not a category. He is not statistic. He is a member of my family because Christ compels us all to be the one family of God.
You cannot undo years of racial conflict. You cannot solve the Syrian refugee problem, defeat ISIS or resolve the conflict between right-wing militias and the government. You can, however, decide to no longer see others from a human point of view. You can make a decision to see Christ living in the heart of the stranger, the poor, the friend, and the enemy. It’s a decision that will lead to transformation, your own and the world around you.