Hi everyone. Rob here.
Two nights ago I watched the award winning movie, “Twelve Years a Slave.” Based on a true story, it tells the tale of Solomon Northup, a free man who was abducted and placed into slavery in the American South. Thanks to outside intervention he was eventually freed, but the movie ruthlessly cast a light on the relentless dehumanisation that occurs when you are regarded as someone’s ‘property.’ Last night I watched the stunning documentary, ‘I Am Not Your Negro,’ based on an unpublished manuscript by the writer and activist, James Baldwin. Baldwin kept insisting on his basic humanity and the humanity of all people. He offered a harsh critique on a nation that ignores the humanity of its citizens. God surely agrees. One of the most stunning verses of Scripture says this:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14).
God made humanity in his image and, in order to save us, God came in humanity’s image. God too insists on our humanity and says ‘yes’ to it.
This means that dehumanising people is a sacrilegious act. Taking away the humanity that God always insists upon is an act of rebellion against the Creator. And yet, many in the church tried to defend slavery in the name of God. Segregation was also defended. Colonial land grabs were defended. The Black Lives Matter movement is often attacked and a President who poses in front of a church with a Bible just after endorsing violence to clear away peaceful protesters is defended. How often we forget that Jesus Christ came to restore our humanity. Using his name to defend dehumanising others is what we call, ‘using God’s name in vain.’
It is an especially evil act when it is inflicted upon the powerless on behalf of the powerful. Many indigenous people were labelled ‘savages’ by colonial powers. This provided a narrative whereby they were classed as unworthy of owning land. Hitler and the Nazi’s called the Jewish people ‘rats.’ The ruling Hutu tribe called the Tutsi’s ‘cockroaches’ in Rwanda. In America (the land of the free, remember) protesters have been called ‘anarchists and looters.’ Dehumanisation has existed ever since the fall and God has always insisted otherwise.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
Do you see why Jesus insisted on this:
I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters you were doing it to me!’ (Matthew 25:40)
It begins with us all taking the planks out of our own eyes. Many of have benefited from colonialism or slavery or Jim Crow laws. Just look at who has the wealth and the land in your country. Desmond Tutu said that those who oppress dehumanise themselves as well as those they oppress. He’s right. We are not living fully human lives if we look at others with anything less than the love of God for them. That means I, like you, have a long way to go.
Father, increase our capacity to love, our willingness to love and our ability to love. Help us to see with your eyes, hear with your ears, think with your mind and feel with your mind. Holy Spirit, do this in us we ask, in Jesus’ name. Amen.