It seems that many people in the United States of America are really struggling to embrace “the other” these days. Polarization is rampant as this country seems to be fragmenting, segmenting into increasingly smaller and more divergent groups.
Here’s a small example. When I was a teen, most types of popular music were played together on the radio. Country, R&B, and Funk songs were played on the same stations, alongside many types of Rock and Roll. Now, whether you listen to Sirius/XM radio or Spotify, Amazon, Apple, or Pandora, every streaming service has an amazing variety of micro-culture stations playing particular subtypes of popular music. No one “has to” listen to anyone else’s music anymore.
The same is increasingly true with other aspects of our culture. We can easily manage not to listen to or learn about other perspectives on news, politics, spirituality, the arts, culture, television (or should I say “streaming”?!) shows…the list goes on, and on, and on. In fact, it actually takes a lot of work to seek out the perspective of the other these days.
Part of the reason this is top-of-mind for me is that I’ve just finished editing a dozen articles for the forthcoming edition of Oneing, the bi-annual journal of the CAC. The edition is on Unity and Diversity, which feels very timely for me. I appreciated the chance to engage with these articles, which expressed grief for the ways we have harmed the other at times in history, a hunger for discovering what brings us together, and a deep understanding of our fundamental unity as humans and as part of God’s creation.
Jesus never shied away from the other. He engaged with outcasts on a regular basis, throughout his ministry. He healed lepers, whose disease was so unknown—and thus feared—that lepers were banished to live in leper colonies and had to shout “Unclean!” whenever someone passed by. He spoke with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well, who chose to draw water at noon (a hot and unpopular time of day to fetch water) because her multiple marriages had made her an outcast in her community.
The other reason “the other” is top-of-mind for me is that I will be exploring stories like this in another installment of my online retreat series on the Ministry of Jesus through the Eyes of Others. I want to explore what these outcasts might have thought and felt when Jesus engaged them and turned their lives upside down. What was it like to be embraced by Jesus—whether literally or figuratively—when you’ve been untouchable—treated as an outcast, as the other—for so long?
Remember those bracelets with WWJD: What Would Jesus Do? I find myself wondering today, “What would Jesus think?” What would he think about our micro-communities? What would he think about one-issue voters—on any part of the political spectrum? I invite you to ponder what he might have to say about any micro-communities or single-issue policies that you have embraced. How might you shift perspective and embrace the underlying unity we all share as part of God’s one creation?