Broken Windows is the title of an article in an issue of The Atlantic from 1982. It stated, “Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. This is as true in nice neighborhoods as in rundown ones.” (Source)
Years before the article, a psychologist at Stanford, Philip Zimbardo, had already tested the theory. Instead of looking at windows, he put out cars. One in a “good” neighborhood and the other in a “bad” neighborhood. He removed the license plate on both and left the hood open. Ten minutes after being abandoned in the “bad” neighborhood, a family came along and took the battery and the radiator. Within twenty-four hours, the car was completely stripped and vandalized.
After a week, in the “good” neighborhood, nothing had happened, so Zimbardo went down with a sledgehammer and did some minor damage—nothing like a bit of inspiration. Within twenty-four hours, the car was completely trashed and flipped over.
“Good” neighborhood or “bad” neighborhood did not make a difference. Once the destruction began, it continued until the job was finished. Break a window in a building, and eventually, all the windows will be broken.
In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. On day six, God created Adam and Eve. They were free to live in the Garden for as long as they liked, provided they didn’t eat from one tree—The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Yet, “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6)
Adam and Eve took a bite of the fruit, and the Devil picked up a rock, threw it, broke the first pane of glass, and damaged the image of God that is within each one of us. Since that day, the Devil and the world have continued the destruction. We have also thrown a few rocks. Every harsh word, injustice, lack of mercy, bigotry… every sin has been one more broken pane until there are more broken panes than whole.
Even so, God still loves us.
Thomas Merton wrote, “At the end of the first Epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians: ‘I shall know even as I have been known.’
“It is in the passion of Christ that God has proved to us that He has ‘known’ us. That He has recognized us in our misery. That He has found His lost image in our fallen state and reclaimed it for His own, cleansed in the charity of His Divine Son.
“It is on the Cross that God has known us: that He has searched our souls with His compassion and experienced the full extent of capacity for wickedness: it is on the Cross that He has known our exile, and ended it, and brought us home to Him.” (A Year with Thomas Merton, p.57)
God looked and saw all that was broken within us, yet He could still see His image, so He declared, “These are My children—they are broken. Through their sin, they are separated from Me, but they are Mine, and I will not abandon them to be utterly destroyed.” So God, in His great love, chose to allow Himself to be destroyed. Destroyed upon a Cross that we might once again be whole.
Jesus said, “‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” Jesus said, “I choose to be destroyed so that you may be made new.”
For God so loved the world.