There’s been a lot happening lately…from the beautiful lives lost in Charleston (Also, did you know six black churches have been set on fire since this happened? It hasn’t been all over the news, but it’s real and it’s happening. Check out #whoisburningblackchurches on Twitter), to same sex marriage being legalized, to the affordable care act being upheld, lots of conversations happening, bringing “issues” to the forefront and everyone having an opinion about something.

Also, unfortunately, there seems to be lots of hate going around. I don’t really get it and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Something that I’ve realized in all this rhetoric about different things is how we view each other as “other” or think about people in terms of “us” and “them.”

We don’t agree with homosexuality and we think marriage should be between a man and a woman so those that disagree or practice homosexuality are “other.”

We think the Confederate flag is just part of our heritage and doesn’t stand for racism or slavery and anyone who thinks differently is too “sensitive” or “other.”

We think “poor people” should just work harder and not take advantage of welfare and “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and those that don’t…”other.” Aren’t we glad we’re not like “them”?

We think those “immigrants” should just go back where they came from, they’re too “other,” they’re not like “us.”

How often do we step outside of our own perspective and worldview and try to consider another? How do we stop seeing fellow human beings as “other”?

I know I’m guilty of this too. I can see people that are different than I am and they are “other.” They’re not like me, they don’t believe what I believe, they are wrong…therefore, they are “other.” It’s me against them…whoever them is. It’s like it gets engrained in our minds…there’s us and there’s them.

It once was easy for me to say, oh, homosexuality is wrong and the law shouldn’t include same sex couples…until I started having friends who came out and actually entered into friendships with people who are gay and took the time to listen to them and hear their story. It was easy for me to say, oh, racial profiling probably doesn’t happen on the scale that people try to say or racism still isn’t a huge thing, people just exaggerate, until I started having friends and neighbors tell me their experiences, until I started listening and really opened my eyes to see. It was easy for me to say, I really do care about equality and justice, but it’s just too much so I’m going to distance myself from it all…until, I really started seeing the inequality and injustice. It was easy for me to say, why wouldn’t people just enter our country legally…until, I started hearing the stories of those that are undocumented and hear about the fear and injustices they live with each day and how screwed up our immigration system is.

These “issues” aren’t issues to me, they are people, they are living, breathing, beautiful people with the image of God stamped on them just like it’s stamped on me.

Things can be easier when we see people as “other” or when we just think in terms of “issues.” We get to have our opinions, we get to see things in black and white, we get to distance ourselves and thank God that we”re “not like them,” but is that love? Is that carrying each other’s burdens? Is that truly working to see God’s Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven? Is that truly experiencing the richness and fullness that can come from deep relationships and community? Is that really choosing to love our neighbor as ourself? Is that what Jesus was about? (I’m pretty sure Jesus spent a lot of his time with people who were considered “other”)

We need to be surrounded by people who are different than us. What tore down the walls and broke the lens of seeing “other”, for me, was relationship and community. It was love really. It was stepping outside of my perspective and my own box. Building relationships and stepping inside someone else’s story breaks down the barriers of “us” and “them”…it creates space for just us.

I wrote a prayer on my bathroom mirror that I read every day because I’m tired of how easy it can be to see the people around me as “other” and I know I have to work to uproot the bias and the indifference in my own heart. I pray that I would be reminded daily that everyone is made in God’s image, that everyone deserves to be loved and that if I can even have a small part of affirming that in someone, I will.

It doesn’t have to be us and them…we can be part of creating a better story. A more inclusive story. A story where there is no us and them, there’s just us. A story where no one is marginalized or made to feel “other” because they are affirmed in who they are and affirmed in the fact that they are created in God’s image and are wholly and fully loved.

How does my prayer end? With love…just to love well.

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