I think one of the biggest lies we as a human race believe is that there is an “us” and there is a “them” and that anything that is not “us” is bad and to be feared. It is this fear of the different, unknown, weird, dangerous and the not-so-easy to understand that produces sin in us. Or maybe it is a fear that we will lack the unity needed to accomplish what we need to within our preferred groups. We point fingers. We scapegoat. And we follow the crowd in hopes of acceptance and to not stand out in a negative way.
We fear being placed in the role of outcast and scapegoat. It is a lonely place to be for us who are created to be relational beings. And yet we all participate in scapegoating.
We all do this.
Children practice this on the playground when they decide who they will play with and who they will exclude and pick on.
Teenagers do this when they carefully curate their experiences for a social media world. They are tagging, like-ing, commenting and subtly leaving people out. Teens are using technology to directly attack those they deem worthy of exclusion and derision.
Adults who pride themselves in their “maturity” and “discernment” do this when they react to the news, choose a place of employment, vote and choose a church home.
I do this. When I avoid people in hallways because I do not deem the conversation worth my time. When I think about the world, it is so easy to feel like my small camp of thought has things right. I think that the problem is “them” out there, ruining the world.
From the beginning…
This attitude of fear and blame seems to be a pervasive part of the human condition. The first sin entered when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, and pointed the finger of blame away from themselves (Genesis 3).
Then, their son, Cain killed their other son, Abel because of a difference between them and jealousy. Cain’s sin of violence has tainted humanity’s thinking ever since (Genesis 4).
What Jesus asks of us…
Jesus showed us an alternative way of viewing the world, power and structure. In his teachings, particularly the sermon on the mount, Jesus teaches love. This is not love as a weak or passive way, but love in a radical way. Jesus teaches us to love our enemies. He asks us to turn the other cheek, and to go the extra mile in radical love for those who would harm us.
This is antithetical to everything in our sinful being. The child deep inside wants to rise up and say, “But, that’s not fair…they…” We point the finger of blame away from ourselves and toward the other. The other who is different can be blamed and violence may be permitted out of a skewed and twisted sense of “justice”
Jesus showed us that God himself does not see us vs. them. He showed us a God that loves indiscriminately. Jesus shows us a God who would rather die than not have us be in a relationship without us. And Jesus backed it up with action on the cross. The cross being the most horrific display of our unjust violence and scapegoating. The wooden beams have been transformed into a vision of just how far God will go to free humanity from this sinful state. This is what God will do to restore us, all of us to himself.
Jesus in word and in action, asks us to follow him, surrender our tendencies toward fear and scapegoating to his more powerful love. Then, he asks us to do another hard thing: to love our enemies.
I’m not saying loving your enemies is simple or easy. Truly, the only way I see it happening in my own life is to surrender to the ongoing work of the spirit of a loving God.
My hope and my prayer is that others will see the goodness, hope, and peace in the same surrender to Jesus’ love. And see the true freedom found in loving those we often would rather not. Just think of what the kingdom of God might look like if more of us did just that! I believe it would be more beautiful than we can even imagine.