A timely contribution from Mbird Sarah Condon:
In the wake of the bombings in Boston, social media was aflutter with stories about the human response to the tragedy. Numerous articles were shared in the days that followed offering heroic accounts of those who stepped in to offer help and those who placed their own lives at risk. One of the countdowns I kept seeing was this piece on Buzzfeed. There was also this on The Atlantic. Such kindness countdowns are always popular and particularly after highly publicized acts of human violence. They usually have taglines like “These 6 photos will restore your faith in humanity.”
As the wife of a volunteer firefighter, I am all for raising up the first responders in our midst and being thankful to those who offer help and support. Also, I understand that we feel momentarily better when we see photos of people helping people. I would certainly never begrudge anyone looking for comfort in the aftermath of such a sad day. What I struggle with is the idea that faith in humanity is something to be achieved. However well-intentioned they might be, these articles are simply using one human action to redeem another. We cannot look to our fellow human beings to save the situation. We are all sinners, just as those who set those bombs are sinners, and our own actions will not heal our sin-sick souls.
In his “One Way Love” talk at the Mbird Conference last week (posted below), Tullian Tchividjian spoke to the exhaustion of the human condition asserting, “When we feel our exhaustion, we try to preform our way out of it.” He’s right. Of course we post photos of human beings being compassionate and courageous. We have to feel better about ourselves and the state of our humanity. Unfortunately, this project lands us on a grace-less treadmill of disappointment, constantly being letdown by how much we think our faith in humanity (that is, ourselves) can be restored.
Events like the tragic bombings in Boston remind us that we are indeed an exhausted people. We are the walking tired. Tired of being anxious. Tired of being scared. Tired of looking to one another for answers. If we look to ourselves and those around us to mend that profound exhaustion, we will remain hopeless. Tullian wrapped up his talk with a profound assessment of our relationship with God: “The Gospel is God’s inexhaustible shout to God’s exhausted people.” We cannot restore our faith in humanity. We are too tired for that. There is only one Redeemer in our midst and it is in His inexhaustible grace that we find our rest.