THE OTHER 10-14-18
October 14, 2018
Why did I title my sermon “The ‘Other’”, and mention the ‘other’ in our Call to Worship? In philosophy there is a distinct meaning to the phrase “the other” and an action called “Othering”. “The term ‘Othering’ describes the reductive action of labelling a person as someone who belongs to a subordinate social category defined as ‘the Other’. The practice of Othering is the exclusion of persons who do not fit the norm of the social group, which is a version of the Self.”* In other words (no pun intended), it is labeling people that belong into the social group you identify with as “Us”, and those who do not as “Them”.
In Jesus’ day, the ‘other’ were the Samaritans. They were the Israelite inhabitants of Samaria who had intermarried with the foreigners and adopted some of their idolatrous practices, and so Samaritans were generally considered “half-breeds” and were universally despised by the Jews. But you will notice that there is nowhere in our third Scripture reading (John 13:34-35) in which Jesus says we are to love one another that you will find the words, “except the Samaritans”.
Jesus demonstrated this when He talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, as you heard in our first Scripture reading (John 4:1-30,39-42). The disciples were shocked to see Jesus breaking not one, but two, social codes of the times - talking to a Samaritan and talking to a woman. And the fact that He did made such an impact on this woman, that she immediately told others in her community about Jesus, and her testimony led many to Christ.
We have come a long way since then in elevating women from their previously low social status - even letting them preach! However, many of us still commit “othering”, if not publicly, then secretly in our hearts. Who do you view as the ‘other’? Those who do not live in your town? Or maybe those who live in other countries – especially certain countries? Or maybe those who are not Christians? We are called to share the Gospel with them, so they, too, can find salvation through Jesus Christ. You might ask, “But what if they hate us, or what if they even want to kill us?” Jesus forgave those who were crucifying him, and said “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34). Remember, the eyes of those who follow false religions have been blinded by Satan, and while they think they are worshiping the true God, they are actually worshiping the god of this world in one of his many disguises (read 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 11:14). Even the apostle Paul thought he was truly serving our heavenly Father when he participated in the execution of Christians until Jesus revealed himself on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). He then became a faithful and courageous missionary, church leader, and the writer of half of the New Testament. Imagine how hard it would have been for someone back in Paul’s day to have witnessed their father or brother being executed for his faith at Paul’s command, and then a year or two later witnessing Paul preaching the Gospel. But how many of us, myself included, have not always led the perfect Christian life, perhaps far from it, before the Lord called us out of the world?
Or maybe your ‘others’ might even be Christians from different denominations. There has been friction between Catholic and non-Catholic denominations for centuries. And even among Protestants there is often division over such things as speaking in tongues, timing and mode of baptism, interpretation of Scripture, and style of worship. Sadly, even within the same Protestant denomination there are often unsolved differences. And our denomination is no exception, or we wouldn’t be having a special session of the general conference next February. But the most disheartening of all is when there is bitterness and animosity within the local church. If there is anywhere that love should abound, it is within the local body of Christ. We need to keep the words of Ephesians 4:31-32 deeply etched upon our hearts, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” I know there is much love within this church. I seen have unselfish giving of time and resources. I have seen compassion, service above and beyond, and wonderful bonds of friendship. But I have also seen some of those things I just mentioned in the verses from Ephesians. And those need to go, if we are to shine the light of Christ in this dark world. Remember, the world is watching us, and how the world sees us is how they see Christ. And so I close with the words of the apostle John, “Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” (1 John 3:18). Amen. *https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Other_(philosophy)
Poem before the opening video:
We all might have a different style, of dress or music that makes us smile.
One wears jeans - another a suit, but that's no reason for dispute.
Whether you drive a caddy or a spark, prefer the beach or amusement park,
We were all created by God above, and in His image we're made to love.
Opening Video: "Prove It" (Crowder) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fsKoK9yLE0
Closing Video: "Come to the Table" (Sidewalk Prophets) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXXxLwxfo0U