LOVING OUR NEIGHBORS: THE CHALLENGE OF “OTHERNESS”

LOVING OUR NEIGHBORS: THE CHALLENGE OF “OTHERNESS”

It is no secret that our place or location in life often determines how well we recognize the needs of others.  Folks who are well placed many times miss the point when it comes to recognizing needs.  In fact, well-to-do Christians find it difficult to love people who are still struggling to meet basic needs of life because they might consider them as not being in their class or as lazy people who have squandered their opportunities.  The problem is not unidirectional, poor or lower-class people also do not understand the upper-class people and may times blame them for their own misfortune.  It is a “We vs They” or “Us vs Them” problem.

When our Lord Jesus Christ told a law expert what he must do to inherit eternal life, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” in Luke 10: 22, the law expert made attempts to justify himself when he asked “And who is my neighbor?”  His intention was to put a limitation on who should be his neighbor, or one can say his intention was to categorize who his neighbor should be.  A subtle “we” and “they” or “us” and “them”.  The “we and they” is not meant to be another “we and they” in the sense of we don’t do it, but they do it, rather it is something that everyone does.  Each of us has a natural propensity to view the world from a “we” and they” perspective. Many times, we do not engage in this perspective intentionally. However, when we do it takes a heart for God to be able to see and do the right things with the right perspective.

The “we vs they” also results in the “here vs there” perspective.  We are here and they are there.  The “we vs they” or the “here vs there” perspective bring challenges that are difficult to overcome when the issue of loving our neighbor as ourselves arise.  There are several differences that lead to the “we vs they” perspective.  Differences like class, education, culture, language, etc.  For example, when it comes to showing love, “we” Christians find it quite easy to love people from our family; and family here could mean our biological nuclear or extended family, our church family, our township family, or our same language family because they are part of us or because they are here with us.  Our calling is however not to only love those who are part of our family, but to love all our neighbors. As we learnt in Luke 10:30-37 our neighbor is not necessarily part of our family, our neighbor is not necessarily one of us, and our neighbor is not necessarily here with us. The Parable of the Good Samaritan teaches that the neighbor God calls us to love is not limited by tribe or ethnicity and is not limited by national boundaries.  There is no us, and there is no them. The word of God to us is to go and make disciples of all nations not only our own nation.  Our address or location in life should not be a stumbling block for us to accomplish God’s work.

The “we” and “they” or “us” and “them” separation sometimes leads to seeing issues through a set of bifocal lenses.  We see issues that relate to “us” with one part of the lens and the issues that pertain to “them” with the other part of the lens.  Many times, the issues that concern “them” are seen with distorted lenses while our own issues are seen through a set of filters that make things look better than they are.  This is one of the reasons many white or black folks in America will tell you they are not racist or that they have no racist bones in them.  The truth however is that we all exhibit some racist tendencies because we all tend to view things that concern us through rose colored lenses and see others with distorted lenses.

This idea of “we and they” gets in the way of the gospel, it gets in the way of loving wholeheartedly, it gets in the way of loving our neighbor as ourselves.  Someone needs help and we do not want to help because “their kind never appreciates whatever we do for them”.  The “us” vs “them” gets in the way.  The “otherness” of other people makes reaching out more difficult.  The “here” is our comfort zone and over “there” takes too much effort.  The solution for us is to realize that a problem exists.  Once we do, we can begin to make intentional efforts at overcoming them.  Take that extra step to understand “them” better.   Take that extra step to understand why “they” do what they do.  Take that extra step to reach out and be understood, because the “otherness” may be mutual.  As we make all our efforts, we must also ask that the Lord gives us the grace to overcome the challenges that “otherness” creates in our effort to love our neighbor as ourselves. May God give us the grace to overcome these challenges.

Tags: No tags

Comments are closed.