Look Again, as if for the First Time

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(Image courtesy of blogs.wsj.com)

The caption for this image reads, “A homeless family sat on a sidewalk in Kolkata Wednesday.”  Some of us might see a single woman and her young children in abject poverty.  Some of us might see a social system on the verge of collapse.  Some of us might look and see nothing because we do not want to see people like this in their misery.  I wonder what Christ would see if he looked upon this image.  He would see one of his beloved.  He would see her sins, love her anyway, and show her the grace of God.  Maybe he would feed her.  Maybe he would sit down in the filth of the street with her.  Perhaps he would bless her, heal her if she needed it.

Where we might see hopelessness, Christ calls us to see something else.  Can we see this woman as more than homeless?  Can we envision her as the widow of Zarapath who fed the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 17:15).  Maybe she could be the widow at Nain whom Jesus had compassion upon and raised her son from the dead (Luke 7:12-15).  Would she have inspired the parable about the persistent widow who seeks justice from the unjust judge (Luke 18:3-5)?  While the rest of the world ignores the widow, would Jesus have observed her and remarked about her offering (Luke 21:1-4)?  When you consider all of these widows in scripture, this solitary woman, this widow, this mother is no longer just a homeless woman on a dirty sidewalk.  Her personhood is fleshed out and her identity is more than just her plight. 

How often do we fail to look on certain people as anything more than a social ill, a systemic problem, a symptom of the sickness of this world?  They are human beings, God’s own, and deserving of all the dignity we demand for ourselves.  This woman and her children are not poster children for a cause.  They are just like you and me.  We could be them if a few things went wrong in our lives.  Let us keep from dehumanizing people for our own causes, our ease of confronting  the painful end of human existence, and making them invisible in our sight so we do not have to help, much less acknowledge them.  We are called to something more than this.  We are told over and over again to care for the widow and the orphan in scripture.  It is time we reinterpreted what that means and make a change in our lives so others will see another way.  I do not know what that change will be, but I have a good idea where to look…

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