us and them.

mjkimpan  —  September 17, 2012 — 53 Comments

this whole ‘us versus them’ thing is getting a little old. the lines are more blurred than we care to realize – and certainly more than we care to admit.

these lines were blurred nearly 2,000 years ago. jesus really messed up that whole ‘in vs. out,’ ‘us vs. them’ dynamic.

no matter how hard we try to force his life and teachings into that box, God keeps getting out and extending his grace beyond our borders. and as we follow God in the way of jesus, we continually find ourselves forced out of the comfort zone of ‘us’ and into community with ‘them.’

you know, our neighbors. the ‘Other.’ 

a few days ago i shared this definition of the Other – anyone who is considered to be an outsider, ‘not one of us,’ belonging to a differing group, gender, orientation, party, community, religion, race, culture or creed.

a christian faith without commitment to the Other is really no christian faith at all, because christ was committed to the Other.

the barriers between what was holy and common – the sacred and profane – were broken down in very act of the incarnation – jesus, the word made flesh – God in the form of an infant again made intimate with his creation as he had intended from the beginning.  throughout his entire life, we see a commitment to reconciling the relationship lost in the garden of the genesis narrative.

jesus’ customary walks as an adult in the garden of gethsemane must have reminded him of a time when he waltzed through the garden in the cool of the day with the crown of his creation before the imago dei became distorted by sin.

yet it is in christ that the power of the barrier of sin has been broken and the separation that had previously existed between the Maker and his creation was torn from top to bottom, just like the veil in the holy of holies that symbolized that same separation.

the barrier no longer exists. grace has prevailed.

God is present – with us, emmanuel -in the midst of the mess of our own humanity. the incarnation is evidence of God’s intentional solidarity with humanity and all of creation.

the barrier is broken and the concept of the Other rendered obsolete. this principle is at the epicenter of our sorely misunderstood doctrine of salvation, and expanded upon by paul in his epistles [one obvious example is galatians 3:28].

yet how many more examples do we gloss over in our cursory and elementary glance at the gospels?

jesus ushering in a new way and breaking the old law in his healing touch of the lepers; stepping outside jewish tradition in his solitary discussion with the samaritan woman about her social status and streams of living water; siding with the sexual sinner in the woman caught in adultery, standing in solidarity with her whom the law dictated must be stoned for the punishment of her sins.

the messiah’s preferential treatment of prostitutes and tax collectors, or his profound appreciation of the whore whom anointed him in preparation of his coming burial by pouring perfume on his feet and and massaging them with her hair. as the woman of ill repute was being secretly slandered by the religious elite, the christ rebuked them, declaring that what she had done was beautiful – and declared wherever the gospel was preached throughout all of history, her story too would be shared.

could it be that whenever the gospel is given without careful attention given to his interactions with the Others – specifically this woman – by his own words it is no gospel at all?

could it be that a christian faith without commitment to the Other is really no christian faith at all, because following the example of jesus dictates a commitment to others?

the implications for us to intentionally live as ambassadors of reconciliation are simply staggering. and yet we find ourselves doing theological gymnastics and wrestling with one another on the merits of acceptance of the Other.

too often, we demand conversion and conformity prior to connection – in stark contrast to the example christ left for us.

i wonder at what point (or at what cost?) we will sacrifice the barriers constructed in self-righteousness for the life giving gospel jesus offered.

what do you think?