Romans 7:15-25 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
As a Christian High School Principal, I deal with students, parents, and teachers on a regular basis. An interesting phenomenon for me is how each group will tend to de-humanize another. It happens the most with a students’ view of a teacher. He may view his teacher as an emotionless being who thinks of school all the time. When he sees his teacher at the store out of the context of school and dressed differently than the normal school attire, it throws him a little. “My teacher eats normal groceries?” Okay, so this is an over-exaggerated analogy, but not far off. When a teacher has a human reaction to a student, it takes the student back.
Upon encountering one of these situations recently, I began to look inward and ask myself, “Where in my life do I do this as well?” That was an easy answer, “Lots of places.” Sometimes the people I disagree with become faceless, emotionless, unhuman beings in my world. It is just easier for me to put them in that category. It gives me someone to blame for how I feel as a result of what decision they have made. In fact, many times I de-humanize men and women of the Bible. I place them in a Spiritual bubble and compare myself to them. When I compare myself to them in this way, I never will be as spiritual as they are. I miss their human qualities, or at least dismiss those qualities with the idea that the characters had a closer contact with God than I do. Taking the idea of de-humanization further; I especially de-humanize government officials.
Why do I de-humanize others? Well, there are several reasons. First of all, I do this when I feel I will never measure up to the person or persons I am de-humanizing. This is especially true about the Biblical characters. I get to see the outcome of their lives. I forget, or do not read into the human struggles they encountered and through God became what I read about. I set them apart as more than human and in a place I can never reach. I also will do this with leaders I look up to and follow. I do not see the hard work they have put in to get where they are now. I forget how much it takes to get to the position they are in and I see them as super-human.
A second reason is that it is easier to de-humanize than to look at myself. I can blame others for my shortcomings, laziness, broken agreements, misguided anger, etc., by looking upon them as other than human. I place them in some sort of category that is so void of human emotion or reasoning that they are the enemy. By doing this, I do not have to look inward and face some truth about myself. I essentially protect myself from any pain I may feel when I face those parts of me I may not like.
Finally, I am selfish. Yep, I said it. Crud, I said it. I want what I want when I want it and how I want it. To de-humanize is to justify my selfishness. I want something, and in the way may be another person. If I look at them as something other than human, my conscience is not violated by my action. It allows me to bulldoze forward knowing that I am not hurting a de-humanized person.
So why did I choose this passage for this thought? I chose it because Paul was human. I can relate to this verse on so many levels. Paul was a Spiritual giant. Yet, he was also a vulnerable, man. He knew God’s law and God’s grace, yet he still struggled and spoke of that struggle. Paul gives me hope. Paul also reminds me that I tend to de-humanize people. To know that Paul struggled yet was godly, reminds me that those I de-humanize are the same. So, I go back to the example of the student de-humanizing the teacher. I explain that a teacher is called to a higher standard, disciplined, trained, a prepared. However, when challenged, disrespected, and de-humanized enough, she will react. Why? Because she is human and has the same emotions the student does. Helping the student see the teacher’s human qualities allows the student to gain a different perspective. Helping me see others as a created being by God, allows me the same.
1. Who is a specific set of people you have de-humanized?
2. Why do you suppose you do this?
3. What do you gain out of de-humanizing others?
4. What Bible characters seem out of reach for you and why?
5. Pay attention this week to how you treat others as human beings. Let God reveal to you when you de-humanize and show you something about their humanness.
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