Today: Monday, December 09, 2019
 
 

How different?    (8/19/2018 )



Our local Cathedral is very old, going right back to the year 672AD.  As you would expect, there are many fascinating historical features.  Among them are some remarkable wooden carvings which date from around 1490 - over 500 years ago.

One of these is the particularly odd portrayal of a man who has a head but no body.  In medieval times he was quite a familiar object, called a blemya.  In fact, he was a warning - if you go to the farthest parts of the world, look out!  You might meet some strange people like this!  There might be dragons there, and there might be part-human and part-alien creatures there too, they could be dangerous!

Ignorance fuelled imagination and produced a grotesque caricature.

And that kind of suspicion of strangers, including scorning other nationalities, and leading on to racial bigotry, has gone on throughout the ages.  In some cases it can be harmless fun - we make jokes about our neighbours - do you know how stupid they are?!  But all too quickly that can lead to intolerance, even hatred and ethnic cleansing.

It’s too easy to think that people who don’t look like us, or who have a different language or different customs are therefore different from us, so we reject them or ignore them or treat them as enemies.  History is full of sad stories of such things.

Jesus constantly challenged that kind of bigotry.  Most famously he told the story of the Good Samaritan, who helped a man who had been attacked and robbed (recorded in Luke 10, verses 25-37).  But he was telling the story to people who thought all Samaritans were bad and to be despised and kept away from.  Jesus’ point was you might find some of them are better and more caring than you are.

It became a central belief of Christianity that people of all tribes, all nations, all colours, all backgrounds, could be drawn together in Christ.  It is fundamental that all people are made by God and can know God as Father and can know themselves as God’s children.

That means that I cannot, or should not, look down on anyone, as if they are less and I am more.  God looks on everyone of us alike, and I should do the same.

And so should politicians and governments.  It is no doubt natural that every nation wants to guard its own life and identity.  But when the price of that is to despise or belittle or persecute those of another race, or treat them as sub-human, then that quickly becomes evil.

When national leaders stir up fear of others, or encourage the rejection of others, or feed on a bigoted nationalism, they need to be challenged; they are treading a self-centred, isolationist path that leads to hatred and not to love.  Jesus has shown us another way - to see all God’s children as God sees them - and we need to follow that way in our own lives and in our national politics.





Prayer:

God who made us all, help us to treat our fellow creatures with respect, with compassion and with love - as you do.

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