The back story of CBS’s Person of Interest is that a post-9/11 U.S. government commissioned an independent contractor to create technology that would help to identify terrorists, allowing law enforcement officers to prevent crimes. Finch (Michael Emerson) is the independent contractor who created this technology. However, it has one unfortunate flaw. Initially, it identifies all crimes, not just those of national concern. Consequently, Finch has to program the technology he created to separate crimes in two lists: relevant (national in scope) and irrelevant (personal in scope). Even though the “irrelevant list” is wiped clean daily, Finch is still haunted by the people he knows are involved in crimes he does nothing to stop. When he expresses this discomfort to a colleague, the colleague responds: “We didn’t build this to save someone. We built it to save everyone.”
I wonder if the Church doesn’t have the same problem. We believe that Jesus came for everyone. We talk about how Jesus died for everyone, how Jesus loves everyone. But are we concerned for the needs of the person looking us directly in the eye? Are we willing to move to help that person? Do we really believe that Jesus died to save that person?
Speaking for myself, I know I have often been guilty of making my own “irrelevant list.” I don’t mean to create this list. I know Jesus is for everybody, but too many times I have my own ideas about who is “likely to be saved” or who I am able to help. Because of this, I am tempted to argue, at times, when prompted to reach out to others. Often my response sounds something like, “Jesus, I know you came for everyone, but seriously … that person?”
Sure, reaching out to every single person Jesus came for is an overwhelming prospect and will require me (all of us, really) to go above and beyond efforts that are comfortable, convenient, easy or even logical, but in light of the consequences, can I (can we) live with the existence of an “irrelevant list”?
Finch decides he cannot live with the “irrelevant list.” He cannot continue to do nothing to help the people on the “irrelevant list” created by his technology, and so the weekly plots for Person of Interest are born. Mr. Finch enlists Reese (Jim Caviezel) to help him uncover the puzzle of each situation and the role of the person from the “irrelevant list.” This information then allows them to intervene and prevent lives from being destroyed. Overall, Person of Interest provides an interesting platform for the truth that no one’s life, no one’s pain, is insignificant—that every person is worth our attention and effort.
Because this is true, we who are the Church can no longer live with an “irrelevant list” either. It’s true that Jesus loves everyone, but underneath that warm, fuzzy, distant generalization are a whole lot of “someones” who need us to get involved in their lives and make the love of Jesus real to them. Next time we think about how Jesus came for everyone, let these be the follow-up questions: How many “someones” are there in “everyone,” anyway? And what can I do right now to help someone in a way that draws them to Jesus?
Rachel Decker writes a bi-weekly column about television for RELEVANT magazine. Check out her blog at RachelDeckerSpeaks.com. Follow her on Twitter: @rdeckerspeaks