You are so much more than a number to me. In all the years of exchanging letters, you’ve taught me so many things about faith and forgiveness and trusting God. The most important, though, being the terrible implications of limiting a person to simply a number. Historically, some of the most despicable crimes against humanity have been committed because we forgot that people are inherently valuable as children of God and not mere statistics. It says so much about our culture that our prisoners are just numbers in a system and that on the few occasions that we hear about our military losses from the media, it’s one mention of some number of soldiers lost in Afghanistan and little more. We will spend weeks investigating, grieving, and exploiting the death of an attractive young actor who died tragically here in the States, but many of us will never know how many American men and women died today so that we can freely express our outrage about that loss. I think of prisoners and soldiers known only by numbers here in America, and that’s not even taking into consideration the number of impoverished people and humans sold into sex trafficking across the world that we know only by numbers.
Hasn’t it also been noticed historically (and cinematically) what power comes from reclaiming human identity above simply the numbers that have been given? I think of movies about rebellion, like V For Vendetta, and the freedom that results in the recovering the importance of human beings. It seems to me that part of our mission as followers of Christ should be to renew our understanding for purposeful lives on earth, as we remember that God is capable of redeeming everyone. It seems like an irreplaceable part of the ministry of reconciliation that we’ve been entrusted with. It’s not so much about people having inherit value just for existing, so much as it is that we’ve each been created, redeemed, and died for by the God of the whole universe. This changes things. This reminds me that every soldier, every homeless or incarcerated man or women, every politician, every actor, every veteran, every person, was born at first a helpless baby, created by God in their mother’s womb, and bought with a price. They were created for a purpose, and their position in or culture or location in the world does nothing to change that. It makes every person matter, and gives me implicit hope in each of their value because I remember that I was redeemed, and that I must see that possibility in each and every one of them.