Part 2: Seeing
Chapter 3: The Problem of Misperceiving
People in desperate circumstances do desperate things and rationalize each step along the way. – Mark Labberton
On Saturday, I attended a seminar on the Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary Charlotte campus where discussed the topic: Rich Church, Poor Church: Exploring Affluence and Poverty within the American Christian Community. One of the most insightful speakers of the day was educator and author, Dr. Ruby Payne. Dr. Payne expounded upon her research and life experiences concerning the hidden class rules, providing specific examples from people in generational poverty, middle class, and wealthy communities. For each category, she addressed the driving forces for decision-making, the way each community views other people and “the world,” and our natural responses to physical fighting and food. For example, in her article titled, Understanding and Working with Students and Adults in Poverty, Dr. Payne wrote:
For those in generational poverty, the driving forces for decision-making are survival, relationships, and entertainment.
For those in the middle class, the driving forces for decision-making are work and achievement.
For those who are wealthy, the driving forces for decision-making are social, financial, and political connections.
Understanding these hidden rules can really help us when we are trying to “help” or understand those who are in a different social/economic situation than we are. Understanding hidden rules can also change the way that we perceive those who are not like us. And we do need to understand those who are not like us if we are to love as Jesus intends. We need to understand the ways that we misperceive people who are from a different race or ethnicity, social/economic class, from another country or different religion, and even those who dress a different way or speak another language.
We are sometimes subtle in our assumptions and sometimes may not verbally communicate our misperceptions, but we do need to understand that the presence of misperceptions could reveal sin in our hearts. Consider Jesus’ teaching which has its foundation in the 6th Commandment, “Do not murder (Exodus 20:13).” Jesus spoke, “You have heard it said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment (Matt. 5:21-22a [NIV]).” In this statement, Jesus puts the physical act of murder and the passion or heart issue of anger on a level playing field.
Labberton understands that our “degrees of misperception vary, but far more often than we imagine, human life itself is jeopardized, if not extinguished, by our mis-seeing, both for the victim and the victimizer (pg. 65).” Such was the case with the murder of Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant (as portrayed in the movie, Fruitvale Station) and such is the case with so many murderous crimes across our country and in the world.
What we need to understand is, “Injustice is not only their problem. It’s our problem—your problem and my problem.” We all have been crippled by this sin and we need God’s healing. The first step to receiving healing and then actively walking in this healing, however imperfectly, is confessing our sins to God at the moment he brings them to our attention and then asking for His help to resist the apathy of living day-to-day without seeing injustices against others. To the glory of God, we can replace apathy with love. For:
Beneath all this is the foundational truth that we don’t really love God or our neighbors. Injustice is one of the consequences of our failure of heart…[and we must acknowledge that] God’s heart passionately desires justice, starting with the most vulnerable (pg. 67-68).
“If justice means “to make things right,” What is one area of injustice that especially matters to you (or alternatively, one that you think should matter to do but doesn’t yet (pg. 68)?”
My comment is: Human Trafficking
Blessings, © Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2013
Catch Up on the Discussion:
Chapter 2: WE See No Evil
Chapter 1: Stop Rubbernecking, It’s Dangerous
Introduction: Dangerous Act and a Heart Like the Grinch