Human society has always identified certain people—or types of people—as “the other.” We tend to marginalize those who are different. We form our groups of like-minded individuals and exclude those we deem as unacceptable. These individuals are not welcome in polite company. They aren’t included.
Outsiders populate the stories in the Gospels. These people received scorn, ridicule, and judgment. People like Zacchaeus, a tax collector and Jewish turncoat. Or the Samaritan woman, who was nearly as untouchable as a person could get—almost as much as lepers quarantined in colonies of the living dead. These people meant absolutely nothing to anyone else. They were nothing. But not to Jesus.
So how did Jesus treat the outsiders he encountered in his time on earth? He displayed a genuine interest in them: healing the diseased, dining with Zacchaeus, spending time during the heat of the day talking with a Samaritan woman—none of whom anyone else wanted. He spent time with them, even though it would prompt objections from members of polite society. Best of all, he wanted them to know him.
Part of the glory of Christ is treating others as God intended. When we look at types of discrimination such as sexism, misogyny, ageism—all the ways we turn someone else into “the other”—these are not primarily sins against other people, even though they are profoundly sinful. First and foremost, these things are a challenge to God’s authority. When we look down on someone because of the way God created them, we do not merely criticize the person; we condemn their Creator. We denounce his motives, pour scorn upon his designs, and wag our finger at his foolishness.
At some point, every human being is an outsider to the kingdom of God. The apostle Paul says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
We are all spiritual exiles seeking a home. Beggars who found a buried treasure; malnourished who discovered a splendid feast; orphans who found the world’s greatest Father. For those of us who have found the way, isn’t it criminal not to want the same for everyone else?