The way the story goes, during the Soweto uprising of June 16, 1976, students were shot by the police and many of those caught up in the demonstration fled to the nearby Regina Mundi Church, the largest Catholic Church in South Africa. Reports are that the police entered the church and were actually firing live ammunition at the crowd and into the walls.
Even though no one was killed in the church, many were injured and the church building itself suffered significant damage. I remember visiting this magnificent building in 2007 during NYI’s Third Wave Conference for global leadership development. My mind could not wrap around the ignorance, hatred, and violence that occurred amongst humans – driven largely by the differentiation of a person’s skin color and ethnic origins.
I stood before this statue of Christ – its hands shot off by the attackers on that fateful day in Soweto. My mind still floods with emotion as I try to take in the significance of this image and the events that contributed to South Africa’s Apartheid.
The way another story goes, an indigenous teenage couple hooked up in their community in Mexico’s Copper Canyon in the state of Chihuahua. The much-too-young teenage girl gave birth to a precious baby girl and immediately knew something had to be done to protect this vulnerable baby. You see, this beautiful, dark-skinned Rarámuri Indian baby had been born with only a left hand; her right arm had only developed just past her elbow. The primitive, superstitious community would demand that this baby’s life be ended. So, the young teen mother kept the baby close to her for as long as she could in private and then, on the fifth day, knowing she could not provide the care and protection this baby needed, carefully delivered her baby to a nearby hospital. Though multiple attempts were made to reach her later on, the mother was never heard from again.
Jump ahead two years to when we first met her and then another two years until our adoption process finalized – and yet another two years until one day, this six-year-old daughter of ours came home from her school in the US, crying. No, sobbing. Yet another bully at school had taunted her about her little arm. Yet another bully had taunted her about why her skin was so dark and her sister’s skin was so white.
I’m going to admit at this point that all of my composure as a father, let alone as a pastor in the Church of the Nazarene got thrown out the window. I wanted to find these bullies and introduce them to our theology of end times, first hand. My mind could not wrap around the ignorance, hatred, and words that could be expressed from the mouth of a child towards another – because of her physical differences; the color of her skin and the difference noticed in her hands.
When Christ was nailed to the executional cross at the place of the Skull, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
What seems to be moments later, Jesus – near death – hears the plea from his execution mate on the next cross, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)
It’s the reaction of Jesus that captures me – every. Single. Time. Jesus is not retaliatory – He is not seeking ways to protect himself or paint himself in a light that makes people recognize his superiority. He’s not grasping for opportunities to make his own name great.
Jesus takes the strategic move he’s been using all along – he sees the opportunity to serve “the least of these” and he seizes the moment. Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
In Soweto today, not only do we still see the physical evidence of broken humanity, we also see the spiritual evidence of an abused, shot-at Jesus who triumphantly reaches his hands into the brokenness to lift people into reconciliation.
In the life of a pre-teen little girl from Mexico, not only do we see the physical evidence of frail humanity, we also see the spiritual evidence of a bullied, ridiculed Jesus who triumphantly reaches his hands into the abandonment of humanity to adopt people into wholeness.
In your school – in your workplace – in your church community, there are those who cannot escape the physical reminders of this world’s harsh realities. Christ has placed you where you are so that you can be both the physical and spiritual reminder that Jesus reconciles us, adopts us and transforms us into His wholeness. So, today – may you be empowered to be the hands of Jesus right where you are.
Latest posts by Joel Tooley (see all)
- The Hands of Jesus: Reconciliation in the Midst of Brokenness - January 29, 2018