What is my why
The short answer to this question is to remove the “them”, so there is only us. When we talk about us versus them it sets up a battle. That’s what versus does, it pits people against each other. It implies that there is only a right and a wrong or that some people are more worthy than others. We spend much of our lives hearing about our differences, right v left, urban v suburban v rural, man v woman, black v white, poor v rich, liberal v conservative, and so on. It seems only in times of distress, like war or natural disaster, do we seek to claim our sameness, our unity.
We know that unity is important to God. After all, He is a triune God. Although He is Father, Son, and Spirit, the Shema reminds us that our God is one (Dt 6:4). Unity is all over the Bible and Paul talks about it in all of his letters. Malichi 2:10 asks “Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?” Psalm 133:1 states “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” I could list countless verses and though they explain God’s why they don’t necessarily explain my why. As much as I would love to say that my heart wants what God’s wants, we all know that it is never that simple and easy with our hearts.
I’m sure in this blog I’ll confess to most of the things where I diverge from God but not in this post. Unity is one of the things I find easiest. It’s my dichotomy that I am an introvert, but have a love of people. I can at once be sick of “people-ing” and want to be alone and still care for others. It is this care of others that has led me toward my college degrees and my choices of jobs. I’ve always been interested in the stories of others and trying to make sure those stories were heard and had an impact. Whether it was photojournalist, union rep, legislative assistant, or outreach minister I chose things that would allow me to be a part of something bigger than myself. Things that would let me help advance the cause of others. In these roles, I have met people from all different backgrounds and strata. Some of those people were good and some bad and it had nothing to do with their economic status. They did have things in common though. Good people tend to have a heart for others, while bad people only have a heart for themselves.
It has been my experience that most people are good and the reason that they seem heartless about some people is simply that they don’t know them. Some have heard misleading judgments about people or have only seen the bad news that’s covered in the media. Because of this people don’t think there is a real reason to help. We all tend to think that these are the beds we’ve made and we should just lie in them. Sometimes this is true, people have caused their own pain or suffering. But sometimes it is not true. Many people have been born into their situations and others are victims of someone else’s evil intentions. My jobs have often allowed me to introduce people of different circumstances to each other. What I have noticed is that once we get to know a person, our differences that once seemed insurmountable become unimportant. We realize that our commonalities are overwhelming. We are trying to do our best for those we love, we are trying to work hard and pay our bills, we are trying to make sure that those in our care are fed, clothed, and housed, and we are trying our best. Each person has obstacles or barriers they must overcome to achieve these universal things. Once we know each other we can help each other over the obstacles.
There is a reason that Jesus spoke to each person he met differently. He didn’t change the message of everlasting life through God, but he didn’t approach the tax collector the same way he approached the woman at the well and he definitely didn’t approach the rich, young ruler the same way he approached the leper. He met them, each of them, discovered their obstacle, and helped them through it or over it. He is the reason that Paul writes in Romans 12:4-5 that each of us are parts of the body with our own functions and that each of us belongs to the other. Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:2 that to work together for God’s good we must have the same love in one spirit and one mind.
This single-mindedness and knowing that we are all loved equally by God should be our rally point. We should come to realize that there is no them, there is only us. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). Outreach ministry is the best vehicle I have for introducing people who have to people who have not. I believe sharing resources out of love is exactly what Jesus was hoping for. So, I will continue to push people to serve relationally in uncomfortable places as it’s the most successful way to break down the obstacle of them.