If you made a quick survey of the news this week you might have noticed a disturbing pattern. An Indian politician said, rape is “sometimes right, sometimes wrong” in response to mounting public anger over sex attacks against women in that country. A volume in the Harvard collection of rare books was found to be covered in human skin. A 26 year old Australian brutally assaulted a refugee from Eritrea only 5 days after the man arrived in our country, in a totally unprovoked attack. What do these stories have in common?
Objectification. It could be defined as representing a human being as a physical thing deprived of personal qualities or individuality. It is viewing another person as a thing, rather than someone of worth, value or significance.
It is not a new phenomenon. Throughout history wars have been waged, genocide pursued, or social hierarchy established because we fail to see the value, uniqueness or dignity in another. We all do it to some extent. A person hurts us, they make a poor choice or have a past, and we make a value judgement on them. We make snap judgements about people because of what they wear, the career they pursue, or the friends they keep.
In an ethical and morally strict nation, a woman caught in the act of adultery should be punished for her crime. A woman who has been married more times than is socially acceptable and living with a man in such a society should surely be shunned. A man short of stature who makes a living through a disreputable profession like tax collecting should be ridiculed. Those who are sick and outcasts should be ignored or avoided. Those were the cultural values of the world Jesus found Himself in, and yet in each case he did something remarkable. He saw the person.
Despite their brokenness, their past, their poor choices or social standing, Jesus refused to let them be defined simply as an object. He did not just see an adulterer, a tax collector, a loose woman or a leper. He saw someone made in the image of God. Someone with dignity, value and worth. In doing so he allowed them to start to see themselves as God sees them.
Human beings are wonderful and complex. We are noble and despicable. We make great choices and do terrible things. We are made by God who sees us of incredible worth. It is never okay to assault another person just because we feel like it, nor do we take another person just to gratify our own carnal pleasure, and nor should we see another person as book cover.
The next time you are tempted to objectify another, look to Jesus. Remember He looks at you as someone of incredible value and significance, and His example invites you to see others the same way.