My heart is grieving today. Today would have been the 11th birthday of a little girl named Zahra Baker. She is the girl who was reported missing over a month ago, and whose remains are being found in various places. Those of you who live in the Charlotte area are familiar with the story.My heart is grieving, but it also cries out for justice. I must admit that a large part of me asks for no mercy for someone who would abuse, and then kill, a child. Another part of me wonders what could cause someone to commit such unspeakable acts, and wonders at the injustices along the way that allowed this.
I could probably come up with a long list of failures on the part of people that caused this tragedy to happen. The whole story has not come out, but there was allegedly abuse at home. I don't know how many visits social service workers made, or if they noticed anything amiss. Relatives have said that they knew that things were not good at home. One of them was quoted as saying that Zahra had a horrible home life, and that, "this was something...we knew was going happen." The family's neighbors had not seen the girl out of the house for at least a month, and some of them didn't even know she lived there. My heart grieves for a world where relatives know something is going on and feel, for whatever reason, unable to step into the situation. I grieve for a world where neighbors don't know what is going on in the lives of those around them.
Abuse and other problems happen in churches just like they do "out in the world." We don't pick up on these things because we do not build deeper relationships. How many of us really know those we call brothers and sisters in Christ? How many churches are filled with folks who show up on Sunday morning, settle into their comfortable seat, sing a few songs, listen to a stirring (or not) talk, then get into their cars and drive back home, waiting until the next week before they see anyone in the church again? Even many of our small groups are superficial, and don't let any "fellowship" delve into what is really going on in our lives. We worship with people who look like us, think like us, and drive the same quality car as us. We make sure that our time together is spent on things that don't unmask us, so we accumulate more knowledge. We equate discipleship to imparting knowledge about Scripture and the spiritual life rather than pouring our life into the life of another person. We are afraid to let others inside the wall, because we fear what they might say. We fear rejection or condemnation.
Relationships are not easy. They can be very messy, and sometimes painful. The alternative is continuing in the, "How are you doing?" "Fine," way of dealing with people. We can let down our guard and develop deep relationships fueled by love, or we can stay on the surface and never get to know others. We can know people and be known well enough to step in and help when it's needed, or we can say we never saw it coming when the world collapses on them. We can be the body of Christ, or we can be people who just "go to church."