On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Growing up I thought “scandal” and “Scandinavian” came from the same root word because of the scandal it was when a Scandinavian entered our predominately German American culture.
Ok, that isn’t exactly true, but what is true is that my parents spoke exclusively German as young children and didn’t learn English until starting school even though they were both second or third generation American citizens. In addition, everyone in my church, my school, and among my friend group all looked pretty much the same. Because when you grow up in south-central North Dakota, everybody looks pretty much the same.
The “other” — except for the occasional stray Scandinavian — was a distant concept for me, and because of this I didn’t have to think about my personal response to those who had a different skin color, or had a different religion, or spoke a different language. I was ignorant to the struggles and difficulties as well as the hopes and joys of those who were different from me.
And though my circumstances changed after I left the farm for college and there was greater diversity around me, I never gave much thought to my changing surroundings.
Without my knowing, I turned in my ignorance for apathy.
I fear that this progression, at least for me, would have been from ignorance to apathy and then onto animosity. It seems to me that this progression gets played out too often throughout human history. I was fortunate, however, in that this progression was halted (or at least put in check on my best days) because of the influence of people who challenged me through their words and their lives.
There are a number of people who come to mind when I think about those who have helped me consider the “other.” There is one in particular to whom I want to say “thank you” as I thank the women who have influenced me in this series.
Marilyn Gardner, along with her husband Cliff, led a college ministry along with my wife, myself, and a few other people while I was attending Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the late 90s. Marilyn was and continues to be a passionate and compassionate person. Evident in her life was a deep love for international students and the “other” whoever they were or from wherever they came. As I had the privilege of ministering alongside of her to college students, she ministered to me — not just her words to me or her hospitality to our entire family — she ministered to me as I learned from her strength and compassion. Her Christianity and love — at least in my eyes — was not hindered by the ignorance or apathy that I had towards the “other.” In my eyes, she balanced a family (she had five lovely young children at the time — they are all grown now) and work outside of the home all the while demonstrating God’s love for the “other” without appearing frantic. I am sure there were frantic moments — with five children I can imagine there were more than Marilyn would care to admit. The point, however, is that to those of us to whom she ministered, she didn’t seem frantic or too busy. She never “crossed to the other side of the road” or “hurried along her way” but rather stooped down to the one in need, bound up their “wounds,” and cared for the “other.”
She is one of those people that years later — after you have moved far away — you think to yourself, “Self, you should have been more intentional about learning from that person!”
Fortunately, at least in the case of Marilyn, that wish has been granted. I continue to learn from her through her blog, Communicating Across Boundaries (click on the title to read her blog). And I am looking forward to reading her most recently published book Passages through Pakistan (click on the title to read an excerpt).
She continues to minister to me; she continues to challenge my apathy towards the “other.” Most importantly ,she reminds me in her writings that I am the “other” more often than I think.
“Other” can often be seen as pejorative. Every time I wrote it in this post, I cringed a bit — I hope you cringed a bit reading it. But God sent Christ for the “other.” Christ died for the “other.” And God commands us to care for the “other.”
Recently, a friend of mine posted on Facebook a quote that anyone who doesn’t learn English should be sent back to their country of origin — I think learning English is a good thing, something we should with compassion help others to do. I did not get the sense, however, that this was the tone of the post.
This post reminded me once again that my parents were the “other” in this country. My friend’s post would suggest that my family should have been sent back to the persecution from which they fled Russia (my heritage is Germans from Russia an interesting history and a blog post for another day).
I am thankful that my family was able to stay in a country where they were once the “other.” More importantly I am thankful that Christ came for me, the “other.” And I am thankful to the many marvelous people, especially Marilyn, who remind me of my call to love, care, and minister to the “other.”
Tomorrow’s post will be written by Marilyn Gardner! Thanks, Marilyn.
March is International Women’s Month! It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me. I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.
My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:
- to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
- that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
- that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life
Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”