John 5: 14-18
Have you ever flipped through cable news opinion shows or scrolled through social media and felt your blood pressure rise? By the time we finish watching or reading, our echo chamber of choice will make sure we are angry with those who do not see the world the way we do. Before long, an entire swath of people are no longer neighbors, friends, PTA parents, or fellow church members. They are the “other,” and we begin feeling some form of collective disdain towards them. The pundits convince us that those people are a threat to our status quo, out to destroy all that we value. At one level, this “us versus them” mentality damages relationships and fractures communities. At its extremes, it can lead mass shooters to target marginalized groups such as immigrants, people of color, people of other religions, and people of a different sexual orientation. Whenever we read the statements and manifestos of those who commit such heinous crimes, we find they are convinced that the “other” is the enemy.
As much as we talk about polarization as if it is a new phenomenon, it is at least as old as Scripture. Such division becomes especially volatile when we feel that our religious way of life is being threatened. Just ask the temple leaders in today’s passage. When Jesus breaks a Sabbath law and calls God his own father, the religious leaders declare him the enemy and will not rest until he is dead. Before we are so quick to label anyone “other,” we must understand that we will never meet another human being who is not beloved by God. We are called to see that the “other” is Christ himself.
Is there a person or group of people whose value I have dismissed?
God of all, Creator of all, teach us how to value your image in all people. Break down the world’s barriers and when we are tempted to dismiss anyone as “other,” lead each of us to love as you love. Amen.