Not Blind, But Numb


Every time I was in Chinatown, NYC, I would come across these statues of three monkeys:

(Image courtesy of

They represent the maxim: hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.  I suppose the idea is that if one avoid evil words, evil sights, and speaking evil, then you will do no evil.  I’m beginning to think this is very naive. 

I read this article about a little Chinese girl, age two, who was run over twice by two vans, one after another.  Then eighteen people passed by and no one did anything.  For ten minutes she laid there.  Was she invisible?  No.  Everyone chose not to see her, not to do anything for her.  This is tragically not the first time such heinous disregard for another human being has occurred.  The most famous American case is Kitty Genovese who was stabbed, raped and murdered while a dozen people heard her cries for help and did nothing in 1964.

Many will read about these two atrocities and feel a sickness deep within themselves.  We will ask ourselves, “Would I have stopped and helped?”  We hope and pray that we would, that we would not have turned a blind eye.  Unfortunately, this behavior by humankind is not a foreign one or a fluke.  This is precisely what Jesus spoke of in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35); people who want nothing to do with the problems of others.  They hurry by.  They cross to the other side so they don’t have to be near them.  They certainly don’t stop, get their hands dirty, and get involved.  But this is exactly what Christians are called to do.  Christ  stopped, he had mercy on others, he healed them and got involved.  He knew that a great many would want to be blissfully numb to that state of the world and the needs of others.  He spoke of it once like this:

“They may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven” (Mark 4:12).

Are we those Christ says look but don’t see?  Listen but don’t hear?  Are we those who chose to ignore?  We are a species that has become shockingly numb to the plight of our own.  We rage against governments and corporations for dehumanizing people are ourselves the masters of such a cruel weapon.  We protect ourselves and defend our way of life by keeping our hands to ourselves, free from the dirt, blood, and sickness of those who suffer.  I have found that those who listen to the testimony of those who suffer, who witness evil with their own eyes, who speak about the pain of evil, are those who do not enact evil in their lives.  They become a prime force for ending evil.  They become saints for those who suffer, those who lay battered and bruised.  They are aware of evil and its pervasive consequences so they turn from their own evil ways.  They turn, and so they are forgiven.

Hear the evil.  See the evil.  Speak about the presence of evil.  Feel the evil, and then turn against it.  If Yue Yue and Kitty Genovese have taught us anything with their tragic legacy, it’s that few will act.  As Christians, we must.  We are the hands and feet of Christ in this world.  Those cries are for us.  They are calling us to act, and fulfill our call to serve this world.  As Jesus said, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).


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