In the New Testament, within 4 different books called “The Gospels”, the “Good News”, the “Message of Christ” we find an itinerant Jewish Rabbi who is speaking and living out a very pervasive message. Jesus is communicating a new way to be human, a new way of organizing and orienting our lives; a new way to see spirituality within the world and live into it. That new way of being human, that new way of living in community with others, that “Kingdom of Heaven” or “Kingdom of God” that Jesus speaks so often of centers around a primary concern and love for others, particularly The “Other”. What I mean by this is that Jesus’ ministry, 9/10 times is involved with teaching about loving the poor and the outcast, or actually ministering and loving the poor and the widow, and the “Other”. (Note: This is not a factual number, my goal over this summer is to actually take a deeper look in the Gospels and count just how many stories there are of Jesus talking about love for the outcast, or actually ministering to the oppressed and impure)
The “Other”, essentially, is the term for the minority. The people who are on the outside of the tribe looking in. It is the opposite side of the spectrum in a dualistic society. They are the republicans to democrats, they are the liberals to conservatives, they are the poor to the rich, they are the gang members to suburban, white, society. They are the heathens and pagans to the church society of the day. The “Other” is anyone that is involved in the tribal, dualistic society, that lies outside of the borders. In First Century Palestine, these were the poor, the widow, the orphan, the blind, the lepers, the cripples; anyone who was labeled as impure by the temple structure of the day. They were the people who were so unclean that they could not even be an active participant in the religious community. They were “outside” of test tribe and not allowed in.
THESE were the people that Jesus spent time with. THESE were the people that Jesus said were blessed. THESE were the people that Jesus said got the whole “loving others” thing. This was the Samaritan in the famous parable. This is the Sidonians that were mentioned in Luke 10. This was the blind man from birth. This is the 10 lepers that Jesus heals. This is the cripples and demoniacs that Jesus heals. This is the poor man that has the “leg up” on the rich man, who must be like a camel that passes through the eye of a needle in order to obtain the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the lost son. This is the lost sheep. This is the lost coin. This is Deformity that Jesus heals on Sabbath. This is Jesus answering the faithfulness of the Roman Centurion. This is Jesus asking fisherman and zealots and tax collectors to join His movement. This is why Shepherds, the pedophiles and murderers and rapists of society, are the ones who proclaim the birth of the Messiah. This is why Jesus overturns the tables in the temple, because He is fighting against a system that controls the religious system by denying entry to those that are unclean, those that are unfit for service and worship of the Divine. Those that have clearly gotten it wrong and are being punished by God for their misdeeds. Not only this, but Jesus invites them to the table! Jesus invites them to partner with him I. This life giving practice! Jesus places us on the same leve of seeks me to be like him! In fact Jesus says something along these lines at one point, “you, my disiviples, will do greater things than even I am doing right now!” Jesus is inviting them to be on level ground with Him. The union of the divine and the human.
Are you beginning to see the picture? While there is even more to unpack in terms of Jesus’ ministry and calling to discipleship, one of the most emphasized points that Jesus directs us to is to break down the dualistic walls of the tribal system, and going and loving the “other”. Breaking the system that perpetuates social, religious, and political differences, and rather recognizing that the walls don’t even exist if we choose to work outside of them, inviting others into community with us. Inviting others into that blessed and overabundant life of love and service.
So my question for you today, and my question that I urge you to have mature constructive conversations about is this. Who is the “Other” in our society today. Who are the poor of our generation? Who is told that they are outside of belonging in the world today? Who is told that they cannot be a part of the community? Who is our Christian tribe excluding today? Who are we failing to love? The LGBTQ Community? The Poor? The widow? Those that suffer with mental illness? Those that adhere to a different religion? Those that adhere to a different political party? Those that adhere to a different economic process than our own? Those of a different race? Those of a different culture? Those of a different denomination or faith practice? Who is the “Other” Int our life? Who is the”Other” in your community? And who is the “Other” in our world as a whole? We are called out to serve and love and invite these members into community with us? That is what Jesus shows us time and time again in the gospels. Who is the “Other” and what are you going to do to invite, serve, and love them?
Grace and Peace,