Biologically speaking, you are 99.9% identical to any other human being on this planet and yet that final 0.1% makes a huge difference, doesn’t it? That final tenth of a percent creates diversity in our hair color, eye color, skin color, height, predisposition to various diseases, or immunity to other diseases, and a host of other beautiful differences that make each individual unique. No matter how physically different you may be from the next person, you are massively similar from a genetic standpoint. And just as we are genetically similar, no matter how other someone may appear from you, they have two very significant things that make you foundationally and spiritually similar: they are made in the image of their creator, and they need Jesus, just like you.
Consider those two truths when you encounter someone who you disagree with. Consider them when that name pops up on your caller ID or you see their latest post on social media. Consider that they are more similar to you than they are different. Instead of seeing them as an other, consider them as another. When we look at someone as another, we look for the common ground. We see that they are like us, that their greatest need is to know Jesus.
Here’s three tips for seeing someone as another instead of as an other.
1. REMOVE THE SPACE
What’s the difference between another and an other? The only difference is a little space… but that space makes all the difference. That space changes someone from being with you to being against you, from being your teammate to your opponent – it changes an ally to an enemy. The choice is up to you, though. You get to choose whether someone is on your side or against you. You get to choose whether the person across the aisle from you is another or an other. Instead of looking at what makes you different from this “other,” look for the similarities you share.
I’ve already given you two giant commonalities that you share with every other human being on the planet. You are both created in the image of God, and you both need Jesus. That should be enough, shouldn’t it? But to help remind yourself of this common ground, spend some time with the person you disagree with. Remove the space. Listen to them, and I mean really listen to them. Don’t just let them talk at you while you’re poking holes in everything they say. Hear their heart. Hear why they feel the way that they do. I guarantee that you have more in common than you think you do.
2. CHANGE YOUR FILTER
If you’ve played around with the camera on any social media app, you know what a filter does. It changes the way you see things. One filter may give you dog ears, while another makes you shoot rainbows out of your mouth. Other filters though, will change the whole screen, making everything look dark and grainy, or like a comic book. Whether we recognize it or not, we all see the world around us through a filter. The question is which filter are you using.
The default and most important filter of a Christian must be the Jesus filter. The political filter, the sports team filter, the doctrine filter, and the skin color filter – but start with the Jesus filter. Leave that one on. First and foremost, you should look at people with the compassionate eyes of Jesus Christ who looked at thieves, prostitutes, tax collectors, and yes, even the religious elite, with a grieved heart and yet arms wide open. Jesus saw the people around Him as God’s image bearers. His heart broke when they reflected a broken image, and especially so when they led others to reflect an even further broken image. And yet while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. His love is greater than sin; it is greater than every other filter. If you look at someone and can’t possibly see them as being made in the image of God, it’s time to change your filter.
3. KNOW YOUR ENEMY
This line is famously part of Sun Tzu’s advice in “The Art of War,” but it is crucial for Christians to know their enemy. I’m not talking about the person who you disagree with though. Before challenging his readers to put on the full armor of God, Paul reminded his audience that our battle is not against flesh and blood. If you believe that your neighbor is your enemy, the real enemy has already won the battle. Know your enemy. It is not the person across the aisle from you.
The enemy is the ancient serpent, famous for his deceit and lies. Don’t let him trick you into tearing your neighbor apart because they don’t look, think, or vote like you. Remember whose team you are on. Too often, the Church looks more like the Ammonite and Moabite armies in 2 Chronicles 20; we get confused and destroy each other rather than attacking the real enemy. Rather than mimic those forgotten armies, let us stand firm in the love and truth of Jesus Christ, side by side with our brothers and sisters. Let us see the world through Jesus’ eyes and love our neighbor as ourselves, stripping away anything that causes us to see someone as anything other than a human being who has been created in the very image of the God that we worship.
Let us see everyone as another and let us go and love one another as Christ has commanded us.