Recently I saw online the heartwarming story of a Walmart employee in the States who stepped in and gave a woman with cerebral palsy a manicure, after the nail salon refused her business.
This sort of story brings a smile to the face and restores our belief in the kindness and goodness of humanity.
However, like those stories about people making wheels for disabled dogs or rescuing stranded whales, it is not a very Darwinian story though – it is not about survival of the fittest, or weeding out the weak. In fact, although society as a whole may give lip-service to evolutionary theory, very few of us in fact think it is good form to let those who can’t fend for themselves die, or that disabled or mentally ill people should be wiped out. The Nazi social experiment, which was evolution enacted in its most brutal form, is almost universally condemned and those who laud it are considered psychopaths.
If one imagined human history as a hiking expedition up a mountain, then it would make sense to discard the weak and for those who are fittest and strongest to forge ahead. However, we know that it is a sign of our true “humanity” to carry the sick and slow the pace for the weak and young. Instinctively we know this is “the right thing to do” although it may be counter-intuitive to our own survival.
Part of why we know it is true, is that we know we would like to be treated with such kindness and compassion if it were us that were weak, or our child that was ill. And as we age we become more and more aware that we are all vulnerable, and that even the strongest among us will eventually be in the in place where we need the help of others.
Mahatma Gandhi is credited with saying, “The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members.”
If one has a communist worldview, then each individual is only as valuable as their contribution to the collective, and dead wood should be excised. If one has a socialist worldview, then no one is better or more important than the other, and each should be treated and rewarded equally.
But if one has a Christian worldview, Jesus taught that the strong actually PROVE their strength by how they serve the weak. That the greatest among us are in fact the least, and that those who push up the trail with little concern for others will, in fact, end last.
However, unlike in socialism, this does not mean that everyone is the same or rewarded identically. Christianity treats each of us as uniquely individual and yet collectively interdependent.
The Apostle Paul likened Christians collectively to the human body. (Romans 12:3-7) Many individual parts with separate functions and needs, and yet part of a single organism with Jesus as our ‘head’. Even a hang nail or a tiny splinter can give pain to the whole body, in the same way the sufferings of the weakest among us, affect us all and call for our response.
Jesus, who on one hand identified with God ‘If you have seen me, you have seen the Father’, also identified with the most disadvantaged in society ‘whatever you do for the least of these my brothers, you do for me’.
Thus, the fact that we respond with appreciation, interest and agreement to Youtube clips about those reaching out to others and doing kind deeds is not so surprising – if we understand that we are all made in the image of an infinitely compassionate God who responds with caring and love to our own brokenness, sin and weakness.