In 1985, our family vacationed through the Deep South. Our mixed-race family experienced “us/them” moments in several restaurants when it came time to pay for the meal. We were stared at with disapproving eyes and asked “Separate checks?” Three of our four children were obviously seen as different or “theys” in need of separate bills. This flabbergasted us since they were ages 15, 12, 9 and 8. This obvious “we/they” example is lived out everywhere in countless experiences that reflect everyday life.
Who is on our “they” list and “we” list? When we frame life by categories of “us” and “them,” we deny ourselves the opportunity to grow and celebrate our God-given diversity. When we place people in the “they” category, our discomfort with “them” prevails over the need for love, acceptance, compassion and willingness to receptively listen, learn and expand our horizons.
When we live in the ways of “us/them” we can’t be vulnerable and accessible. We have, on occasion, been hurt by our willingness to be vulnerable, but that vulnerability opens the door to caring, compassion and growth. “Us/them” slams the door on the very opportunities we need the most!
When “us/them” replaces “we,” words of rejection and even hatred, replace respect and valid differences become a threat. When love, grace and mercy are set aside, our heartlessness comes to the forefront. Too often our local, national and world experiences reflect “us” and “them.”
Christians are to accept and love people as Christ loves us. We are saddened and perplexed when followers of Christ go astray of the inclusivity of Christ’s love and frame issues around “us/them,” which leads to exclusion. The umbrella of God’s love is one of acceptance, not exclusion. In fact, Acts 17:26 reminds us that “God has arranged it so that all races of humanity come from one blood.” Sameness is not sacred. Genesis reminds us that God made everyone in his image. We all belong to one human family.
The blessings of our community, nation and world are not sameness but diversity lived out together. It is to be a place of honest differences within the family of “we”! We are called to live the life of “we”.
We live in a diverse nation that has deep roots in “we”. Unfortunately there are glaring exceptions where “us/them” is doing great harm. We dread these “us/them” realities that are alarmingly prevalent in our current political climate and upcoming elections. Rather than accept the “us” reality of our diverse nation, and respect the differences that exist, our nation is griped, and even paralyzed, in and by fear. The war of words and actions are destructive daggers that are deeply disturbing. As people of the “we,” we need to replace words and actions of hate and harmful division with meaningful messages of honest differences that exist within our national family of “we”.
Let us overcome that which divides us and work to reject “us/them” and embrace “we.” Let us work to build communities of acceptance so that all find refuge, safety and hope. Let us reject the forces of stigmatization, discrimination, bigotry, racism and dehumanization in our midst and accept one another as neighbors.
As Brendon Burchard says “Understanding the shared human experience is the first gate to grace. Compassion, kindness, and love are the only logical mass solutions.”
May we be rooted in peace and unity as we call for justice and unconditional compassion, kindness and love. Let us celebrate our belonging to one human family!
• Pastor Larry Rorem is the retired pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. Laura is a “professional” parent of kids born with Neurobehavioral disabilities. They are members of Resurrection Lutheran Church and advocates for all who belong to one human family.