Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Us vs. Them

We tend to stick with our own tribe, people, clique, group, and so on and so forth. It seems to be very natural for us, very comfortable. We simply relate with these people better most of the time and so we're naturally just divided up based on characteristics and attributes that we possess. There is one factor about you and everyone else in the world though that is common ground and should impact you: We are all created by God and are loved by Him. 

This provokes the question of how we handle the "others" out there in our lives. XXX Church had an interesting approach to this that they put on many t-shirts, bibles, and in general was one of their mantras - Jesus Loves Porn Stars. To some, it was a very shocking statement. After all, these people are some of the leading "sin causers" in the church today, right? Firstly, never try to blame YOUR sin on someone else. Will they reap the consequences of causing others to stumble, yes, but that doesn't excuse you. Furthermore,  porn stars have more or less become equivalents to prostitutes amongst the more judgmental religious crowd. That being said, I remember how Jesus treated the prostitutes of His day, with respect, so much so that it changed them and one washed His feet with her tears and hair. You see, dehumanization of another person - porn star, prostitute, homosexual (we tend to judge sexual immorality more than those "petty" sins like gluttony and greed) - is every bit as much of a sin. 

Matthew 5:43-48 really challenges the way we think about the "others" in our lives. Loving our enemies is no easy or light task. If we are to change the way we view others and see them more like how God sees them, it's going to affect our interactions. If I view this person as a child of God, I now am looking for what I can gain from this person, not at how they are different from me. I think we get wrapped up in "defending the faith" sometimes and sacrifice ethical treatment of others and open, loving conversation. I once heard it said, and agree whole-heartedly that in order to convert someone who practices Islam, you have to be just as willing to convert to Islam if it proved to be the better religion as you want them to be to convert to Christianity. Instead of being open and loving, we tend to demonize the "others" in our lives. I tend to do this with groups like the Westboro Baptists far more than I do the "sinners" I encounter. But yet, they are but children of God, despite how misguided I think they are. 

Speaking of demonization, I'm going to take a little tangent to try and better illustrate something. I love a good devil movie. Yep, I said it. Paranormal Activity, The Conjuring, movies like that. I also enjoy movies that portray heaven, God, Jesus, afterlife, end times, any of those things, no matter how bad they do it. I'll tell you why. In a last quote from the movie The Conjuring, there is a quote that reads "The Devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges on which we decide to follow." When someone states some sort of belief in the devil or demons, they are also expressing some sort of belief in God, and that's important. I watched a movie recently called "What Dreams May Come". It was absolutely terrible (in my opinion) but gave an EXTENSIVE perspective on afterlife. As bad as the movie was and as wrong as the perspective was, I got shown THE single most important thing about somebody - what they think about God. Even when you see someone's perspective on possession, demons, or the devil, you are, in a weird kind of way, learning the most important thing about that person as well. 

Now, no matter how fascinated I am with things like demonology, I will study perspectives from afar. There's a difference between interest, and dabbling. I enjoy the Harry Potter movies for their unique perspective and entertaining qualities. You won't catch me even pretending to conjure up a spell. I may be fascinated with movies like Paranormal Activity. You'd have to get a computer chip in my brain and use a joystick to get me to go "ghost hunting" or mess with a ouija board. I write this paragraph mainly to say, know your limitations and stay safe as you attempt to widen your perspective and appreciate others. 

I love the Christian movement I am a part of. The Restoration Movement (where Disciples of Christ, The Christian Church and Churches of Christ came from mainly) started out as a unity movement. There were SOOOOO many dividing points within Christianity at that time period, most of which were expressed in the name of a church. Some churches literally had 10 or more words in their title, each expressing a division and where the church stood on it. There were a couple of guys who essentially said that they'd had enough, and wanted to get back to "basic" Christianity, not as another dividing point, but as something to bring back those in the divisions to a common ground. It was much like the Non-Denominational movement of today. We definitely don't have a completely shining history in this, after them came men and women who wanted to look at the differences more than the similarities, eventually giving Churches of Christ a pretty bad name back in the 30s and 40s. We're still healing from some of these wounds. 

Our early church fathers were looking to break down the walls that created the Us vs Them mentality and looked for shared thoughts and common ground, rather than differences in theology. A. W. Tozer, who I've utilized in this post through the quote in my "about" section, had something else to say about one's thoughts of God. He said that "compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence." (2)

Now, the thing Tozer spoke on the most was "that our idea of God [should] correspond as nearly as possible to the true being of God" and that this "is of immense importance to us." (2) One thing I'm not trying to do is create some sort of postmodern, "I'm fine, you're fine, we're all fine" type of picture. I believe with all my heart that Jesus said "I am the way" and that there is no other. But I also believe that when a Muslim talks about Allah, he or she is expressing the single more important thing about him or her, for they are expressing what comes into their mind when they think of God. Despite whether their idea is different than ours or straight up wrong, I think it deserves to be listened to and respected because it is the most important thing about them. We are to help each other think more rightly about God, but let us do so with the generosity and grace that God has shown us. 

So, let us look for more commonalities, and less differences. Let us think more rightly about God, help others do the same, but do so in love and kindness. Let us view each other as creations of a most high and awesome God. 

Let us strive to make the "Them" smaller and the "Us" larger in our lives.    

Tozer, A. W. The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God, Their Meaning in the Christian Life. New York: Harper & Row, 1961. Print. 

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