We dismiss those less fortunate as ourselves to be the other. Fear the other. They are different from us; avoid them, lest they get their affliction on us. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament tell us not to be this way; both sections of our Bible tell us that God’s will is for us to welcome the stranger, the poor, the naked, the homeless, into our home as a long-lost relative, a member of the household.
The prophets write in Deuteronomy, “If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother.” (15:7) Note the word brother; this connotes a close relationship; one we cannot avoid if we are to live in the Grace of God. We are not prone to allowing our biological brother or sister suffer. We would be abhorred by our neighbors and friends if we did so.
This poor, naked, hungry, homeless person is our biological relative. We share ninety-eight percent of our DNA with all humankind. Unfortunately, we can only see how different we are. My philosophy is that we are only different on the outside, so we can recognize each other by name. Imagine what life were to be like if we were stripped of our skin, and all we can see is the naked muscle and bone that keeps us erect. Then, how would we treat the other. There would be no other.
My favorite Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, writes this, “Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” (58:7) – “Thine own flesh” – think about what this means. We share our God-given flesh with all humankind. As Jesus teaches us: what we do to others, we do to ourselves. We feel the pain. Some of us spend a lifetime trying to hide from it. But we all feel the pain of the poor family sitting on the roadside, begging for a few coins to feed themselves.
When I can, I share a few dollars with them; I feel guilty that I am unwilling to welcome them into my home. I also feel guilty when I am not close enough to give them a few dollars. This is my feeling their pain. This is me, feeling the disgust that we, the richest society history has ever seen, allows part of our own flesh suffer, being naked, homeless, hungry.
Isaiah’s words are an admonition to us. I imagine what a religion would look like that accepts and feeds all of the people we share our flesh with. There are those in our world who try their best to give a helping hand to these poor relatives. Unfortunately, there are more who shunt them. I would love all religions to accept that we are all one body; we suffer when one suffers; we hunger when one hungers. My religion is no better or worse than your religion; both try to live by the word of God, regardless of what name we call Him. If we truly joined to treat all humanity, and all living things, while we are at it, with the love and caring that God wishes, maybe, just maybe, we could be that society stripped of its outer layer of skin, showing that we are all the same.
That’s my sermon of the morning! Share Love, it comes from God.