“We declare to you . . . what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes” (1 John 1:1).
The things we have heard do not motivate us as much as the things we have seen. Seeing changes everything. Hearing that a football player hit his fiancee engenders indignation and a slap on the wrists. Seeing him do it sparks outrage and public disassociation. Seeing changes everything.
Leaders of faith communities must point to the violence and poverty and injustice at work in the world and invite people to observe it first hand. God observes peoples’ misery, and so must we. This is why we take people on mission trips, to see up close the kinds of realities we hear about from afar. I’ll never forget the stupefied silence of a group of high school students beholding the border wall in Nogales, Arizona. We’d been telling them about it for weeks. But when they saw it . . .
And yet . . .
Communities of faith must also be forces that hold the line on testimony. All manner of wickedness thrives where resistance depends upon visible proof. If a victim must furnish video evidence before her assailant is stopped she will not soon cease to be a victim. Courageous words of accusation and protest demand a hearing, and churches must continue to be places where victims’ voices are heard.
Seeing changes everything, but let us not forget how to listen.