This morning I was waiting at a train station (something one does a lot of when one has a fiancé in a different city) and contemplating the early morning masses of humanity going about their day. A few feet away from me was a group of men and women, squatting on the ground close to the train tracks. Their voices were raised in raucous banter and laughter, and they seemed to me unfamiliar and uncouth.
But as I watched them, I remembered something I saw recently as a response to the Christchurch shooting. It was a quote from Mother Teresa that said:
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."
It was easy for me to read that quote, and nod sententiously. "Yes, those people have forgotten that we belong to each other, that we are responsible for each other, that the 'other' is not the enemy. When will they learn?" It can be hard for me to understand how anyone can reach a place where they could even consider wanting to end the life of another. I'm not like that.
But this morning as I looked at those people, I realized it starts with suspicion, with fear. And I too was also looking at them as 'the other', foreign to me, strange to me, and disconnected with my life and my reality. I stepped back and looked at my own subconscious prejudices. I look at people who seem educated or dressed like me as more valuable, more connected with me. And the others? They weren't mine. I was more likely to look at them with suspicion, watch my bags, keep my distance.
In that moment, I tried to look at them differently. Sure, they were loud, they related to each other differently than I would relate to my friends or family. But though they had come from a different world than mine, they were also just waiting for a train. They felt hungry, tired and thirsty. They had common jokes and friends they could joke around with. They had hopes, and desires, and fears, and problems.
And on a deeper level, they were made by the same God who loved me into being and has been directing my life. They were as worthy of love and salvation as I was. They were made for love, as I was.
If Jesus is true for anyone anywhere, then Jesus is true for everyone everywhere.
And if that is true, that has an impact on the way I see and treat people. They are no longer disconnected, unrelated to me. They are mine too, as they are His.
What about those who are not just innocent bystanders going about their own lives? What if they are BAD PEOPLE? What about the man in the train staring at me a little too long? What about the aggressive beggars? What about those who treat me with suspicion because of my faith? Even those who don't consider themselves MY friends, who may want to cheat me, or abuse me, or just ignore me - those too are my brothers and sisters. It doesn't mean I support or excuse evil. But I still see the perpetrator as salvageable, as one who deep down is made for good, made for love, made for heaven. If Christianity is all about redemption, then we have no enemies of flesh and blood. If we fight, we fight with weapons of love. We are not overcome by evil. but we overcome evil with good. And all those who do the same, are connected with the same God of love.
"If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" Matt 5:47
One morning's reflection won't change everything, but it's a start.
Stretch my heart, Lord, so I can love as you love, so I can see the world as You see it. Let peace begin with me.