The other day I read a fascinating editorial from the USA today about the fact that people as a whole fear, “the other.” The other is unfamiliar actions, places, people, traditions, or culture. The other is just something that we don’t know a lot about, but causes great fear and uncertainty. For example the Florida pastor who planned a Quran burning called that book, the devil. When interviewed, a reporter asked have you ever read the book, no, do you know anything about it, well yeah, it’s the devil. I don’t mention this man to point out that this man decided something he was completely unfamiliar with was pure evil.
As we look around our church, and think about being open to all people, we are a place that is filled with people of all sorts. We have democrats and republicans, we have Bears fans and Packers fans, we have people who represent a variety of groups and lifestyles. And if we are not careful, we can start to look at one another as “the other.” The other view of this or that, the other take on this issue or that, and it can divide us. It says in Ephesians 4:2-3, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3, TNIV) Our job and mandate is to maintain the unity of the body, to love each other, to be one unified body of Christ. Yet this mandate does not mean that we have to remove everyone that doesn’t just like us from our church. Instead this passage asks that we carry ourselves in such a way that our actions lead to unity within the body.
In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus says, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift…and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift…First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift. Throughout the gospels Jesus direction of how to handle, “the other” is simply and straight forward, go to them. Go talk directly with them, so that you can listen to one another, and understand one another. You may still disagree with one another, but will gain a greater respect and understanding for others. This way we can stand together, understand and appreciating one another’s perspectives and differences and the Body of Christ.
When you have issue go directly to those you have issue with, you can learn to agree to disagree, but we have a call to try and get to know “the other.” This does not mean we are all in complete agreement about everything, but instead that we are in agreement over the one most important thing, Jesus. Those although we may vote for candidates, cheer for teams, and listen to music differently; we are unified as believers in Jesus. Although we might have different opinions about a number of things, we can stand alongside one another and say, I’m with them, as we share in the ministry God calls us to do.