I just finished reading through the gospel of Matthew, and reviewing my notes from The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor Chapter 6: The Cruz made me think about the times when the disciples and religious leaders lacked compassion concerning Jesus’ work on behalf of those he loved. Matthew’s gospel records several life changing moments that caused an “indignant” or angry response based on false assumptions or misperceived notions of unjust behavior. This occurred when:
Children were brought to Jesus (Matt. 19:13-15)
The disciple’s response: They rebuked them.
Jesus’ response: Laid hands on them and said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these [NASB].”
Jesus healed the blind and lame in the temple (Matt. 21:14-16)
Chief scribes and priests became indignant.
Jesus’ response: Recognized the children for praising Him.
The woman anointed Jesus for burial (Matt. 26:6-13)
The disciples’ response: They became indignant.
Jesus’ response: Praise, “Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her (v. 13).”
These passages reveal what Labberton writes: Evil arises out of the seedbed of our heart and allows us to “go on seeing and naming the world in ways that serve our interests (pg. 89).”Jesus saw the children and had compassion on them. The disciples saw an interruption. Jesus saw the blind and lame and desired to heal them. On several occasions like this one, the scribes and priests saw Jesus as someone breaking the law or usurping the power of God. The disciples saw the wealth associated with this woman’s ointment, but Jesus saw her heart and connected with her desire to embrace his death. The reality is that we all need change. “We see shallowly. We typically project onto other’s lives what fits the scenarios we craft for them (pg. 96).” Children are needy. Jesus thinks he’s God and people actually believe he is worthy of praise! That woman is wasting her wealth. She should have given it to the poor. When in fact, the opposite is true. Like the rest of us, children need Jesus. Jesus is God and the story of what that woman did will forever be attached to the gospel. We need “to learn to see and name differently—with the consequences that we would then have to act differently (pg. 89).” We all need to learn to see as Jesus does.
Bringing this conversation to our homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, and community challenges us to cleanse our lens. “This is not, of course, just an act of our eyes but a matter of our hearts. Empathy, our capacity to perceive at least partially enter into someone else’s reality, comes with a price. Often we are not interested in paying it (pg. 96-97).”
History records what happens when we are unwilling to pay the price of empathizing with others:
Rwanda and Bosnia genocides
American slavery followed by Jim Crow
Today’s crises in Syria and Egypt
Modern-day slavery and other oppressions mostly against helpless women and children
Daily injustices in our workplaces, school systems, and churches
Yet there is no broad stroke that we can use to erase or correct these past and present issues. God has sent a Savior into the world and he promises to transform us “one heart at a time (pg. 102).”
We need Jesus to help us.
Reflection: “How are you encouraged by God’s desire to help you see and respond to our world less dimly? Do you like seeing more clearly and brightly? What are the costs? How can this journey for you be helped by others doing the same (pg. 103)?”
Blessings, Natasha © Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2013
Catch Up on the Discussion:
Introduction: Dangerous Act and a Heart Like the Grinch
Chapter 1: Stop Rubbernecking, It’s Dangerous
Chapter 2: WE See No Evil
Chapter 3: Injustice and the Problem of Misperceiving
Chapter 4: Learning to See
Chapter 5: Looking in the Mirror