I’m not the first to say it, and I won’t be the last, but man, I feel sad. I feel angry and I feel a little disoriented as the social media trends spike with every new allegation of sexual misconduct and every “me too” and every scandal. They break across our headlines like blood splatter, sparking that fear that we’re afraid of admitting: this is really messy. This isn’t a one-and-done conversation. There is no way to put this genie back in the bottle. We have to sit down and have a talk.
In the Kingdom of God, people are subjects–not objects.
My therapist likes to say that when I feel tired or burned out or used. It gently nudges me in the direction I need to go. The direction that reminds me that this isn’t the way things are supposed to be. For months, I’ve been aching over this reality. Every shooting, every political mishap, every heartbreak, every abuse points to the cancer that seems to be rotting our world. Things feel shaky and uncertain and we would rather keep our heads down and pretend everything is fine, even if only for a few minutes.
But it’s not fine. We’re so very un-fine.
In Genesis, after Creation and the Fall, we find two brothers in the familiar tale of competition. They both offer what they have to God, and He cheers for one. He commends Abel for a job well done. And it says, simply but powerfully, “Cain’s face fell.”
In his mind, he has lost. And suddenly, his brother, Abel, is competition. He is someone to beat. He is no longer a fellow man, but an enemy.
The Lord pulls Cain aside and tries to steady his shaking first and labored breathing.
“Why are you angry? Why has your face fallen? … sin is crouching at the door if you sit in your anger. It wants to destroy you, but you can’t let that happen.”
Cain doesn’t respond. But his heart is set on darkness because he has lost vision of the big picture of who he is and who God is and the fact that Abel bears the image of God.
So he takes a walk with Abel. And the two of them enter a field, but only one of them leaves. The Hebrew text says that Cain violently and intentionally kills his brother. His younger brother. The one he was supposed to protect and hold dear.
This was the fruit of the seed of objectification. It was grown and blossomed under the care of hatred and a refusal to see another person as a human with dignity.
And now, here we sit. People killing people. People assaulting people. People abusing people. People objectifying people.
The kind face of my counselor pops into my head.
“In the Kingdom of God, people are subjects–not objects.”
So what does it mean to be a subject and not an object? It means that we see one another as human. As image-bearers. As marked by the inherent value of breathing in and out. Regardless of race or gender or class. Regardless of if we’ve “earned it” or “deserve it.” Regardless of age or education or political party.
Let me say it one more time for the people in the back: Regardless of political party.
I’m going to get really honest here for a second. If you walk into Church on a Sunday and sit down in front of a computer on Monday and post about the idiots making laws you disagree with or the imbeciles who need to be slapped or the losers who can’t get their lives in order, you need to walk back into Church and try again. If you think it’s okay to shout at strangers in traffic or call the waiter who messes up your order ‘incompetent’ or assume that the maid at the hotel you’re staying at isn’t worth making eye contact and thanking, walk back into Church and try again.
We can have discourse and discussion and conversation, but we don’t get to take our grievances and throw them violently and intentionally at another human as if they represent everything we standing against. Because when we do that, we’re treating them less like a subject and more like an object. We see the person in front of us–or worse, on the other side of a screen–as the law we hate or the legislation we can’t get behind or the sports team we dislike. And somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s okay to drag them through the mud because when people become objects, it’s a lot easier to say things to them or do things to them that strip them of worth.
We write things on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter that we would never say to someone’s face. We would never say it to them on their deathbed or at their birthday party. We would never treat them that way in their living room in front of their kids or on the front porch in front of our parents.
God says, “If you don’t get un-angry really quick, sin is crouching.”
So we invite one another to take a walk in a field, as it were.
And then, we are shocked when another woman confesses that she has been abused. We cover up the scandal and justify the abuse. We get on soapboxes. And in the name of “defending” someone, we start to abuse one another over whatever issue the abuse is circling and the cycle continues. It started in the garden and entered the field and hasn’t stopped ever since.
I don’t know the quick answer to how we fix a world that abuses. I don’t know who should be in office or who should step down. But I can tell you this: it isn’t happening overnight. And it sure as heck isn’t happening as long as we keep objectifying one another by gossiping and feeding porn addictions and making cutting remarks to our spouses and slamming bedroom doors and saying to ourselves, “they are the problem.” It’s not going to happen by debating on Twitter or arguing on Facebook or sending angry emails.
Jesus was always there, offering hope in midst of the darkness. As Adam and Eve are cursed, God says, “but sin isn’t going to win in the end.” And as Cain’s face falls, God says, “Sin is crouching–don’t let it win.” And I imagine that He’s there when we’re about to hit ‘send’ on a text or a comment or a reply. Beckoning us to see what He sees. Aching for us to not be blinded by our sin and longing to redeem our brokenness. It always boils down to Jesus, doesn’t it?
I’m not saying “don’t disagree” (because of course we’re going to disagree) but I am saying that you don’t have to call someone an idiot in the public square just because you think differently. You don’t get the right to belittle them just to make yourself look better. This isn’t about being better than other people–it’s about realizing we’re all broken.
We can openly stand against a policy or a law or an argument–and we should when the moment calls for it, but that’s different than assigning our rage to an individual to the point where we forget what started the argument in the first place. We can disagree and still dignify. We can be on a different page about political or social issues and still pray for one another. We can be in two different camps and still share a meal.
Is it the easiest route? No. But Christ is still in it, moving all things together so that we might feel our way toward Him. We are blind and lost (hence the ‘feeling our way’) but still, He has mercy. Interceding on our behalf that we might choose holiness over haughtiness. Speaking words of truth to the lies we tend to listen to. He is near to the abused and the maligned and the broken, eager to bring us back to health.
May we see the casualties of war strewn across the headlines and run to their aid. May we believe women who have been objectified, rather than asking for proof of their pain. May we defend those who cannot speak for themselves. May we cheer one another on as we take this crazy world one step at a time.
Sometimes, when we take that tone, making things better starts with “I was wrong.” It continues with “I’m sorry.” It pushes toward, “Let’s try that again.”
Today, we can choose to point fingers at the higher-ups who fall and sin while ignoring the condition of our own hearts, or we can ask to see with new eyes. To see the value of each person we meet. To see them as subjects. To honor them as image-bearers. To feel, a little stronger, the heartbeat of God.