The most difficult cases that come before the grand jury are the ones involving “special victims” – children, the disabled and the elderly. These people are supposed to be given special care, protection and respect, but it is a dark reality that these most vulnerable are often used, abused, and ignored. This is a painful look into the culture’s soul.
The hurts perpetrated against these whom society ought to give special care and respect are so painful to all of us. When the defenseless are left without ordinary champions, without cultural value, it diminishes us all. Once they are hurt, they can not, in fact, be restored by the justice the system metes out. Yes, if all goes well someone will be punished, but the damage to the child, to the elder, to the incapacitated can not be undone – it has already further darkened our cultural soul.
Most of us can live with the peripheral knowledge that “these things happen” and we become disturbed and distressed only when it comes to the forefront of our attention. If we’re honest, we see these stories on the news and we breathe something like “thank God that didn’t happen to my child/aged parent” or, worse, “thank God I could never do something like that.” We forget it as quickly as we can after that.
But you know what? We’re responsible for these people, even when we don’t know them. These are our neighbors, members of our community, and they need us to pay attention to them and offer them the kind of protection being known brings us all.
Knowing and being known are the best deterrent to abuse that ever existed. God Almighty designed it that way, and the Holy Trinity models it for us. It takes a communal, interdependent existence to bring out all of our strengths, and protect us all from our weaknesses. The soul of our culture is blackened by independence, by isolation, by self-centeredness… these are the antithesis of community and the breeding ground of abuses of every kind.
For those who are followers of Jesus Christ our highest calling is to demonstrate His love and self-sacrifice by loving others as we are loved by him – known, completely and called to holiness. There is a passage in Roman 12, from verses 9-21, which explain:
9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Combined with the teaching in Jesus parables that all are our neighbors, Romans 13:10 concludes “Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
As I’ve asked the youth I’ve had the honor of walking with in discipleship over the years, what would change in the world if we truly lived this out? The answer? Just about everything. Even culture’s dark soul.
note: this post is in memory of Mrs. Beth Adams.
see the link in the comments for more.