I was watching the movie, The Railway Man, the other week. It’s a powerful story of a World War II prisoner of war who is eventually able to find peace. You’ll have to watch the movie to see how that happens. The part that jumped out at me though was humanity's ability to treat another person in such horrific ways.
War is only possible when we see someone else as an “other.”
The reality is we see that in the news every day. We’ve seen it through atrocities throughout history, such as slavery and the Holocaust. One thing is true in all of these occurrences. The person committing the violence saw the other person not as a person but as an “other.”
“Others” throughout history have been defined by race, religion, geography, whether they are rich or poor and many more ways. Any time we divide people into groups, or see them as an “other,” war and violence against them becomes easier and easier.
This is even true over this past year as we divided people in political groups and in the ways they are viewing the pandemic.
The problem as Christians is that the Gospel does not give us permission to see someone as an “other.”
All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, (Romans 3:23, CEB)
There is always talk about what others deserve. Again, the Gospel says because of sin we all deserve to be judged and found guilty, separated from God for all of eternity.
Here is how Jesus treats us, the “other,”
7 It isn’t often that someone will die for a righteous person, though maybe someone might dare to die for a good person. 8 But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5, CEB)
Jesus gave His life. He loved in the most powerful way imaginable. He extended grace and forgiveness on the very ones who placed Him on the cross.
When we understand what Jesus did for us, forgiving us of our sins, giving us new life in Him, we can never see someone else as an “other.” Instead, the Gospel forces us to look at the person and say, that was me before Jesus extended grace, mercy and forgiveness towards me.
We are called to do the same.