Monday, April 3, 2017

The Call to Respect "The Other"


Jesus calls disciples into a new way of thinking. We might call this “kingdom thinking,” where things like racist slurs and degrading terms are seen as instruments of destruction and are not really much different than the blast of a shotgun into the face of anyone we aim our bile at. When we use such terms, we begin to dehumanize the people we seem uncomfortable with, who are different from us, who don’t agree with us, who we believe pose a danger to us.

True, we live in a fallen world—Jesus is well aware of that—and so it would be naive to assume we will not run up against genuine evil that may in fact be out to destroy us.  But the point is that even those who engage in evil are also God’s creatures, living with a fallen nature, no different than you and I before Jesus breathed his risen life into our dead spirit. Kingdom thinking requires that we stop seeing other people, even our enemies, as people we can degrade or judge. Just like us, they are beings in need of God’s grace. This is at least part of the meaning of our Baptismal Covenant when we say that we will, with the help of God “seek and serve Christ in all persons” and that we will likewise “respect the dignity of every human being.” No exception is made in this promise for those that may differ from us or for those we may prefer not to associate with for whatever reason.

C. S. Lewis explains in his book Mere Christianity that we are all eternal beings. For Lewis, the question is not whether or not we will live forever. The question is where each of us will spend eternity: in the kingdom of heaven or within the power of hell. The reality is that we have far more people in our lives who annoy us than real enemies to our health and well-being. God’s will for us includes the chance for our enemies—and even those who merely annoy us— may come into the kingdom of God because of the redemptive work of Jesus, regardless of how we feel about it. In reality, they enter the same way we do—despite our sins, despite our own weaknesses and imperfections; despite the evil we have done against others.

As we become disciples, we increasingly take on the mind of Christ. That includes how we think not only of our friends but also how we think about and treat those with whom we may not be comfortable. This is part of discipleship’s cost to us – that we let go of the way that world thinks and begin thinking like real citizens of the kingdom of God.

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