Us v. Them

I am an “us” in so many ways.
Except for when I am a “them”.

And so are you.
It all depends on who you talk to.
And the topic.
Who your friends are.
And who you would never call “friend”.

Because it is all about labels, categories and boxes.

I am a woman.
I am a plus-sized woman.
I am white.
I am middle-aged.
I am single.
I have no children.

I am politically conservative.
(If you and I have the same definition of that word.
For some of you, I am not conservative enough.
And for others, I am disgustingly conservative.)

I am a military brat.
I am patriotic.
(Depending on how you define that word.
And where you stand in the current cultural conversation on what that means.)

I am employed.
I am a home-owner.
I am rich.
(Depending on how you define that word.
And your understanding of how the world – the whole world – works.)

I am a person with hidden health issues – things that aren’t immediately obvious from looking at me.
But I am also a person who has been blessed with good health – relatively speaking.

I am an “us” if we match.
In race.
In gender.
In ideology.
In opinion.
In understanding.
In circumstances.

I am a “them” if we don’t match.

And, oh, how we love our “us-es” and our “thems”.
We bash the “thems” on social media.
Or perhaps just in our conversations with other “us-es”.
Sometimes overtly.
More often, covertly.
We let our emotions run our words and we spew.
Gaining momentum – or at least vindication – from those who think like we do.
Act like we do.
Feel like we do.
Look like we do.

Or sometimes we just stew.
Letting a “root of bitterness” worm its way into our hearts.
Where it grows into a plant of hatred.
Sometimes shown.
But often hidden behind a veneer of social justice.
Or, “That’s just how I feel”.
Or, “You couldn’t possibly understand.”

And you are no longer YOU.
You have become a “them” to my “us”.
A category.
A lump.
A box.

But what if…
What if God looks at the world completely differently?
What if He has only one “us” and “them” for the entire human race?
Because He does.
He divides humanity only one way:
Eternal beings, made in the image of God, dearly loved, bound for heaven.
Or, eternal beings, made in the image of God, dearly loved, bound for hell.
Based solely on what they did with the gift of grace offered by Jesus dying on the cross.
Accepted the gift.
Rejected the gift.
The only two categories that matter to God.

That simple.
And that important.

It is all through Scripture.
From the beginning when God said, “Let us make man in Our image”.
Every person, everywhere, created in the image of God.
An eternal being that will live forever. No, not your body – but your soul.
You are a being with thoughts, feelings, emotions, and will.
Designed for community.
And we were a completely unified “us” – until sin came into the world, separating us from God, creating the category of “choosing to be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb” and “choosing not to be”.

It is echoed throughout the Old Testament.
God made a group of people, the Israelites, His “chosen people” as a vessel for bringing His Word into the world. Both His written Word and the Living Word, the Messiah. They were a living object lesson of Kingdom of God.
But He also made provision for any “them” to join the group that chose to do so.
A non-Israelite could become one by choice.
A picture of the eternal “us” and “them”.

Beyond that, He allowed many of the “thems” that are highlighted in the Old Testament to be of questionable virtue, questionable heritage.
A woman who tricked her father-in-law into having sex with her so that she could have kids.
A prostitute from a completely different race.
And a woman from yet another ethnic group that sacrificed their children by burning them on the altar of their god.
All in the genealogy of Jesus.
All “thems” who became “us-es”.

And then in the New Testament, Jesus went so far as to include every kind of outcast – every “them” for his culture.
Prostitutes and other notorious sinners were his friends.
Half-breed Samaritans, despised by the Jews because of their bloodlines, were welcomed.
Men who had betrayed their countrymen by siding with Rome, and then cheated their fellow Jews as they collected taxes, were welcomed.
The woman caught in adultery.
And women and children in general.
People wracked with diseases that kept them apart from the community.
Jesus talked to ALL of these “thems”. Ate with them. Lived with them. And provided The Way – Himself – for “them” to become “us”.

And finally, the New Testament writers after the cross reiterated this concept as well.
Paul wrote in his letter to the church in the region of Galatia: “There is [now no distinction in regard to salvation] neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you [who believe] are all one in Christ Jesus [no one can claim a spiritual superiority]”.

And again, in his letter to the believers at Colosse, he writes that they, as Christ followers, “…have put on the new [spiritual] self who is being continually renewed in true knowledge in the image of Him who created the new self— a renewal in which there is no [distinction between] Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, [nor between nations whether] barbarian or Scythian, [nor in status whether] slave or free, but Christ is all, and in all [so believers are equal in Christ, without distinction].”

One us.
One them.

Follower of Christ.
Believing in the saving work He did on the cross and through the empty tomb.
And therefore bound for heaven.

Or not a follower of Christ.
Rejecting His work on the cross.
And, therefore, bound for hell.

In all the clamor of our world and particularly in social media, remembering God’s view can be difficult.
It has to be a choice.
When my emotions are engaged.
When I go, “How in the world can he think that?!?” or “How dare she post that?!?”
When I feel misunderstood.
Or justifiably bitter.
That is when I have to choose.

I have to take my eyes of off now and put them on eternity.
I have to remember that that person – no matter who they are – is someone for whom Christ died.
And we are either going to live forever together as residents of heaven or they are going to burn forever as a resident of hell.
If the Bible is true, there is no other choice of destination.
It is either eternal life or eternal death.

I have to decide in that moment – and every moment – who I am.
Because I am a “them” to many, many people.
But before I am ANY category, label or box, I am a follower of Christ.
And He has given me two jobs to complete in this world:
Love God with all my heart, mind, and strength.
And to love my neighbor – ANY neighbor – as myself.

Because “they” need to know that this life is not all there is.
They need to know that heaven is real – and so is hell.
I have the information they need so that they can choose eternal life.
Will I really let our differences – their “them-ness” – keep me from sharing it?

Will I be known by my love?
For the “thems” that are Christ-followers and yet different than me?
As well as for the “thems” that do not yet know Him?

Because Jesus said that is the hallmark His followers – His love poured out.
On both the “us-es”.
And the “thems”.

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