A lot of what separates us on this earth is the fear of the other…the fear of the unknown…the fear of what we don’t understand. Humanists would tell you to look for the common humanity in the other. Walk a mile in the other person’s shoes and then you won’t be so fearful. That’s actually really good and true. I love this song by Kings of Leon where the chorus is simply, “I walk a mile in your shoes, and now I’m a mile away…and I’ve got your shoes.”
As Christians, it is so important to see the common humanity in the other. We are all made good in the image of God. We are all sinners and have fallen woefully short. There is good and there is bad in us all. But we must go even deeper than this in approaching the other. We must see every other person as someone for whom Christ died…someone that God saw worthy of the ultimate sacrifice to forgive. This goes deeper than walking a mile in someone’s shoes, because you may have made different choices, better choices if you were in their shoes. Some people are just too difficult to love, too difficult to accept as they are, too broken or dangerous to get close too. But they are no less loved by God. Some Christian traditions teach that Christ’s death has unleashed a spark of the Holy Spirit of God into the heart of every soul. This is called prevenient grace, a tiny hint of the presence of Christ in everyone. John Wesley taught that because we can meet the presence of Christ in everyone, we ought to make all the more effort to engage them, to go deeper with those we might otherwise fear. We might be surprised by the spark of Christ in us meeting the spark of Christ in them.
St. Patrick is said to have spent his life converting the very dangerous pagans of Ireland, his own slaveowners from his youth. As he went about with the Gospel in hostile territory, this prayer is attributed to him:
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
As you go about your week, I hope you will see Christ revealed in the kindness of a stranger. I hope that you will take opportunities to share the Christ in you with the Christ in others. Move past your fears, move past your prejudices, and see the other as someone Christ believed was worth dying for. You may be surprised by a holy encounter.
Or they could steal your jewelry. People are jerks.
You just have to ask yourself if the reign of God is worth the risk.