Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy (Matthew 5:7).
In a prior post, “Seeking God on the Go,” I raised the question how to keep our minds and hearts open to God in life’s frenetic pace. A rule of thumb: The way you see the human will determine how you see the divine.
After all, every one bears God’s image. from the top-tier attorney smoking a pipe and sipping fine wine in his mansion’s parlor to the janitor in overalls pushing a cart full of Slim Jims and beer at Wal-Mart. Let me confess my difficulty seeing either of those fellows apart from their stereotypes.
Yet like me, they struggle to work the twists and dents out of the image of God they bear. If I take seriously the fate of death I share in common with them, I cannot forget they are my brothers. If I place my bets right that God is love, I have to get over this tendency to objectify them. Rather, I must see them as God likely sees us all, myself included: in dire need of grace, but beloved nonetheless.
Viewing a human being as an object, not a fellow subject, triggers the evils that appall us. Those who intentionally crash planes into skyscrapers or trucks into peaceful protesters cannot think of their victims as human.
For that matter, warriors notoriously objectify the enemy with terms like those I recall from old movies. Krauts, japs, gooks – the sordid list goes on. Such words make a deadly difference. For they objectify the enemies, and a soldier more readily shoots an object than a mother’s son. If the capacity to kill contributes to species survival, I suspect objectification springs from our DNA.
But survival value doesn’t make it right. As the cross made abundantly clear, Jesus put survival low on his list of priorities. Rather, he made living in the reality of God’s reign highest priority, and only love can get in touch with that reality.
In that reality, we drop the objectification lie. That means seeing through the pornographic image on a billboard to the person defending herself against desperate loneliness. That means seeing through workers as dispensable servants of profit to people trying to feed their families.
Furthermore, that means looking in the mirror and refusing to hate yourself for falling short of dreams of success, beauty, and wealth that would only make you an interesting object, a marketable commodity.
In the rough and tumble of traffic, the checkout line, and the workplace, slipping into objectification happens all too easily. But if you want to encounter Christ in your everyday life, remind yourself to drop the lie and see the fellow child of God. In time, you will no longer see in a glass darkly. You will see face to face.