Posts Tagged ‘callousness’

Acts 16:33
At that hour of the night the jailer took them [Paul and Silas] and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.

When the jailer accepted the word of God that Paul and Silas shared with him, his eyes were opened and with those open eyes came compassion. Paul and Silas were no longer just prisoners but injured men who needed attending. Before that, the jailer had been complacent.

I wonder how often I have missed human need and suffering because of a callous heart. I drive the same streets every day. I walk the neighborhoods. I go to the same grocery store and eat at the same restaurants. Am I looking and not seeing?

Martin Buber spoke eloquently of man’s ability to look at “the other” without seeing in his book, I and Thou. Am I looking at other as “object” … as an “it,” or as a person … a true “thou.”

William Shakespeare captured this idea slightly differently (but effectively) in the Merchant of Venice through one of the speeches of Shylock: “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die?” [Act III, sc 1] Replace the word Jew with “the poor” and you get the idea.

The jailer could not do much. He couldn’t free Paul and Silas, he couldn’t change their circumstances, but he could give a small comfort: he could wash their wounds.

When I see poor and wretched souls, I become numb with the enormity of their deprivation. What can I possibly do? Perhaps it’s only the small act that needs doing in the moment…. washing wounds by listening, touching, asking, engaging, feeding, sharing. Perhaps I should stop worrying about what I cannot do and simply do what I can do.

I have heard it said that we can never “out give” the poor. Their need will always be greater that our ability to meet it. This sentiment reverberates in Jesus’s own words: “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want…” [Mark 14:7a]

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Matthew 13:15
For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.

A callous is formed on the skin when it is exposed to repetitive activities and the body lays down an additional layer of skin to protect a specific area. Usually, our skin is constantly regenerating by sloughing off old cells and growing new ones. But this repetitive activity prevents the skin from sloughing off.

When a callous forms on the hands of a worker or on the fingertips of a musician, it’s a good thing. It makes it easier to do those repetitive tasks without injury. But, when the heart is calloused, it is no longer able to feel compassion, empathy, or love. The heart is calloused by repetitive hurt, betrayal, and sorrow. Our natural tendency is to “protect” ourselves from further hurt, and so we allow the callouses to form. But, the way of Christ is full of paradoxes and this is another one.

We are called upon to keep the heart open. When we allow those callouses to form on the heart, we miss God. We miss seeing what we are to see and hearing what we are meant to hear. Without a doubt, this is one of the greatest challenges of being committed to the way of Jesus… an authentic Christian.

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