Today, I find myself in unfamiliar territory. I have nothing to say. Over the past few weeks, I’ve tried to write so many blog posts that continually fall short of what I’m feeling. The political climate of our country right now combined with the social medial outlets to express hate left all of my recent attempts at wisdom a little lack-luster.
This time of year is supposed to be a time for new beginnings and starting over, but it seems to me that, as a society, we are just moving further apart. Division, lines drawn in the sand, my side vs. your side – honestly, I’m sick of it. My heart aches for unity. When did we become a society that is self-serving, self-seeking, and unable to see the other side?
The other side. Now there’s a concept.
No matter what side of the political spectrum you associate yourself, there is, in fact, another side. Those people – the one’s we love to hate. We group together with those on our side in order to argue a point to those who will always agree. We watch the news that caters to our views. We de-friend, uninvite and oppose all those who are different.
And, why? Well, I don’t know about you but when I stick to my own kind, I get what I want. Approval. It makes it easier for me to justify my views if no one opposes them. It’s more comfortable. More enjoyable. Satisfying. But also isolating and destructive.
I look at a specific issue and not people. It’s easy for me to become judgmental especially about those issues that have never been a struggle for me. For example, I’m a white middle-class female. I’m married with two children and a dog. I’m a rule-following perfectionist with control issues. And, if I only look at life through this lens, well, you better watch out! I’ll stuff you into a type-A box so fast you won’t see what hit you. You’ll be making lists, coloring inside the lines, and organizing the custom life planner that you never knew you always wanted. Sounds fun – doesn’t it?
No, that even sounds horrible to me – and I do all those things. People, please hear me!!! For the love of all things holy – we are supposed to be – created to be – DIFFERENT.
A few days ago, I was making my morning smoothie and just like every morning I offered some to my seven-year-old. He declined and said to me, “When are you gonna realize we’re different? I don’t like smoothies”. I laughed but found so much wisdom in his words. What if we all realized that the person across the line we drew in the sand was different – not wrong, but different? What kind of progress would we make if we could just step outside of ourselves, even for a moment, and look at things from the other side.
There is a passage in Mark 4-5 and Luke 8 describing a situation in which Jesus and his disciples go to the “other side” in the “region of Gerasenes”. Why is the region significant? – because this was gentile territory. Let me explain…. synonyms for gentiles include heathen, heretic, pagan, unbeliever – everything opposite of the Jews. Now, why would Jesus willingly go over to the other side. Well maybe because he knew there was a man and a region of people who needed him and the only way to reach them was to go to the other side.
Upon arrival to the other side, Jesus and his disciples find a demon-possessed man “chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places”. Can you imagine the look on the disciples faces? Really, Jesus, really??? You brought us to the other side, the land of heathens, and this is the welcoming committee?? Really?? So, in true form, Jesus casts out the demons and sends them into pigs – Wow, never a dull moment. And, Luke reports that the people of Gerasenes were afraid and asked Jesus to leave. I bet so. I mean, here’s a Jew, whom we don’t associate with, who just casts demons out of the town freak and sent them into pigs. Yep – just go.
Now, does Jesus argue his point, his views, or his purpose – No. Luke tells us that he “got into the boat and left”. Now the demon-possessed man begged to go with Jesus – can you blame him – dude was chained hand and foot because of the demons and now he’s free. I’d be begging too. But, Jesus said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you”. And, Mark tells us that the man did just that and “all the people were amazed.”
Now, what is the point of all of this? Well, to reach people, Jesus knew that he had to go to them and cross over to the other side. He didn’t go preach and yell at them. He didn’t tell them how horrible they were. He didn’t bombard them with hateful social medial posts (see what I did there?) – he found their most troubled citizen and healed him. Now, the people were scared and when asked to leave – Jesus left. But, don’t be mistaken – his message and, ultimately, the reason he went to the region in the first place – remained. And, although the bible doesn’t elaborate, we do know that they were amazed and maybe changed.
Even if you don’t believe in the bible, Jesus, or miracles, there is still a lesson to be learned. The people most different from us, most frustrating to us, and most unlike us will not be reached through division. They may, however, be reached or changed if we go to the other side and make a connection.
Well, I guess I did have something to say!!!! I’ll just step off this soapbox and be on my way. My hope is that you’ll find these words encouraging, and the next time you’re tempted to rip someone to shreds on social media (or maybe in line at the grocery store) you’ll reconsider and take a little walk to other side.