Jesus loved the others. In today’s Monday Minute, Muriel challenges us to rise up and reach out to the marginalized within our communities.
by Muriel Gregory
My best friend in third grade was Vietnamese. I did not know she was. My parents told me. I believe they explained to me that her family came to France to escape the war in their country. I am pretty sure I had no clue what they were talking about, but I do not think she had many other friends because she was different. Maybe that’s why we were close.
My dad had been stationed in Tahiti (yes, the French navy has some cool duty stations) and I spent my first and second grade years in a school where I was the only white girl. I knew what it was like to be different. To not fit in. To be the other.
“Find your tribe” is a phrase we use to encourage one another to make new connections and make new friends. As the army moved us from place to place, I was constantly looking for my tribe – running club, Bible studies, book clubs etc. We all need to belong. The danger is when your tribe turns to tribalism.
Tribalism is defined as tribal consciousness and loyalty, especially exaltation of the tribe above other groups. Tribalism is us against them. A self-protection that can lead to violence because of fear. Something we can see unfold in the news all the time.
Arash Javanbakht, assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Wayne State University, explained this concept in an article, “There is a longstanding history of employing the fear of “the others,” turning humans into illogical ruthless weapons, in service to an ideology. Fear is a very strong tool that can blur humans’ logic and change their behavior.” (1)
We fear the others because they are different – looks, talk, way of living, beliefs systems, etc. We fear and we judge without taking the time to see them for who they truly are.
“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
1 John 3:11-15
I encourage you to go pick up your Bible right now and read the whole letter. It is only four chapters long and will take you 10-15 minutes to read. (1 John)
What did you think? Have you felt the pangs of conviction when John says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love”? Or how about when he proclaims that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” – ouch!
We are called to love. Not just our family or our tribe but the others as well. When we love, we show the world that we are disciples of Jesus (John 13:35).
Loving is HARD. Loving my own family has been challenging at times. Loving those who have hurt me proved to be gut wrenching. Loving the others appears to be an impossible task. But this is what God is teaching me:
- I need to see them the way God sees them. They are his children and Jesus died for them, too.
- I need to spend time listening to them and learning about them. Listening with curiosity, not judgement. Listening to understand, even if I do not agree.
- I need to be humble and realize how my shortcomings and skewed perceptions fuel the problem instead of the solution.
My life verse is Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” It is the guide for my decisions and my thoughts. I have come to understand over the years that God’s justice is firmly grounded in mercy. And mercy triumphs over judgement every time.
Pray When faced with issues of social justice, I often start my prayers with repentance. I ask God to recall the times I judge, the times I came to the wrong conclusions, the times I turned a blind eye.
Connect Spend time with people outside of your tribe. Be uncomfortable. Listen to their stories. Get to know them. How else would you ever be able to comprehend what it is like to be homeless or in prison or to live in that neighborhood.
Tell Tell your story as you listen to theirs. “Stories are data with a soul.”
Lord, give me your eyes to truly see others as you see them. Help me to be an instrument of your mercy. May reconciliation triumph over fear and may the wounds of hate, partiality, and judgement find their healing in your perfect love. Amen.
For more tips on community building, check out these great resources.