“Yes… that dark, inorganic mass. I’m sure you saw it during the course of repairing Ada. That object… THAT is a person’s true form. Strip away the veneer… and people are nothing more than things.”
-Relius to his son
At first glance, Relius Clover may remind you of the phantom of the opera. However, what lies hidden behind his mask is far more dreadful than the phantom’s disfigurements. Relius is considered to be one of the most brilliant minds in the world of the Blazblue videogames. During a catastrophic lab accident, he was thrown into another dimension which spat him out 80 years in the future. During that transport, he saw what he believed to be a person’s true form: a ball of bluish light. Since then, the mind behind his mask regards people as mere things, impersonal objects that are either of use or a hindrance to his research and goal of creating the perfect human being. While pursuing this research, he has conducted experiments that have turned his wife, Ignis, and daughter, Ada, into weaponized puppets. When his son, Carl, demands an explanation why he would do such a thing to his own daughter, Relius responds, “I was searching for something. Ada was of use to me during the process, that’s all, like any other tool.” Relius’ ruthless ambition and ghastly creations have earned him the moniker: “The Mad Puppeteer”.
Relius’ villainy brings to light our own tendency to dehumanize others and reduce them to various means to our ends. Judas Iscariot’s response to Mary (the sister of Martha) anointing Jesus serves to illustrate one way in which we do this: “But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, ‘Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.” (John 12:4-6) On the surface, Judas’ concern seems practical, perhaps even admirable. Would it not be better to sell the oil and donate the proceeds to the poor rather than “wasting” it? John, however, writes of Judas’ true motives: to get more money into the money box which he plans to take for himself. Judas is concerned about himself uses the poor as a means. Many times we pull a similar maneuver when we may engage in service with a wrong heart. We are doing it so that we can help ourselves to the honor we ought to give fully to God. Like Judas, we are using the people we claim to serve as a means to an end.
In contrast to the impersonal and dehumanizing view embodied by Relius, God has demonstrated time and time again that He is a deeply personal God. We read that God spoke with Moses in the tabernacle of meeting “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Exodus 33:11) This isn’t to say that Moses literally saw God’s face because that is not something that anyone can do in this world (see later in that chapter: Exodus 33:18-23). However, the language conveys the intimacy of the conversation between God and Moses. God wasn’t speaking to Moses in a removed or distant way, but as a “man speaks to his friend.” Later, in the book of 1 Kings, when Elijah is in the depths of despair, God speaks to him in a cave in the wilderness with instruction and encouragement. (1 Kings 19:1-18)
God even went so far as to be incarnated as a human in the person of Christ Jesus: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) “Inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil. And release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:14-18) Christ is God coming in flesh and blood to come alongside us in our sufferings and infirmities, identifying with our humanity. Furthermore, when Christ ascends to prepare a place for us, He does not leave us alone: “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, who the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:15-18) Even now, God dwells within us in the form of the Holy Spirit. God does not deal with us in a distant fashion, but closely as His beloved children.
If we are being conformed to Christ’s likeness, it means that we are learning to interact with people as just that: people. One of the most poignant instances where we see Christ’s heart for humanity comes from Matthew 9:35-38, “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the His harvest.’” Christ does not regard the weary, confused multitudes with disdain or detachment. His heart is moved because they are each important to Him and He seeks each of them as a shepherd seeks a lost sheep.
It is tempting for us to become jaded and detached from others. The news stream seems to show us nothing but the worst of humanity: selfishness, corruption, murder, etc. It often reaches the point that we come view such events as impersonal news stories when they are, in fact, human events which bring about human suffering. In the midst of our increasingly busy schedules, we may come to view people as aids or obstacles to us. We see them as being of use or hindrances to our goals, just as Relius does.
We should not deceive ourselves, thinking that we are so different from Relius. Although we may not undergo the same trans-dimensional experience he did, each time we choose to treat others as means rather than as people, each time we choose to view others as less than human, we are teaching ourselves to think like him. We are practicing viewing the world through Relius’ mask rather than through the eyes of Christ.
Food for Thought:
- Under what circumstances do I tend to treat people as things rather than human beings?
- How is Christ calling me to view others as He does?
- Consider the love which God has for us that, though He is Creator and we are created, He treats us as His beloved children.