In response to a prayer I posted on Facebook about the terrorist attack in Nice, France, a friend sent me a quote from Seneca, a Roman philosopher and politician living during the time of Christ: “As long as we are among humans, let us be humane” (Chris Peters Translation [CPT]). It sounds fairly fundamental – “be nice to other people” – but the implications are far from basic.
Let’s take it piece-wise. “As long as we are among humans,” Seneca begins. In other words, as long as we live. We’re sojourners on this earth, not permanent residents. While Seneca may have had no conception of (or belief in) a Christian eternity, he still acknowledged the reality of death (and maybe an afterlife, too). Aside from a comment on mortality, though, being “among humans” could also be a reference for our intelligence or status above the “lower” animals, concepts captured by the Christian belief we’re made in the image of God.
Being among humans in either sense calls for a high standard of behavior, and so Seneca says, “let us be humane.” We cannot treat other people poorly, neglecting or abusing them as some do animals. We treat people with respect, love, and dignity – humanely, acknowledging their humanity as equal to our own. This could easily be taken as Seneca’s form of the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. People are people, regardless of any other factor. They are to be treasured, loved – not shot, blown up, killed, terrorized.
With the continuous tragedies around the world today, it’s easy to lose sight of that. Yes, these are evil acts committed by evil people, people who have fallen prey to the lies of Satan and who desperately need the salvation of Jesus Christ. His death on the cross was for them, too. God loves them, too. Let us do as Christ commands and pray for them (Matthew 5:43-48). And as Seneca said, “As long as we are among humans, let us be humane.”