We learn it in the playground.
To laugh at the kid who is different,
throw stones at the boy
who doesn’t belong in our gang.
We build boundaries around our group.
We sacrifice the one who is different
on the altar of our ego
to make us feel safe, secure and good.
We congratulate ourselves,
having ‘got’ the bad guy.
We are OK.
Now we are adults
we put aside childish things.
Or rather conceal them under a veneer of sophistication.
We trade stones for words;
the whispered gossip about what she did last night,
the vicious rumour about why he doesn’t fit in around here.
Or rather more subtly, we confine our conversation to the people we like.
To the outsider we offer polite neglect.
Different means, same end.
The outsider becomes the sacrificial victim,
so that we may feel good about ourselves.
We shun the word ‘gang’ with its overtone of violence,
preferring to call ourselves ‘friends’ or community.
But still we define ourselves by the people we exclude.
God strides into our world,
not to accuse us about how we treat one another,
but to offer himself as the next victim to our hunger for self-righteousness.
We take the bait, brand him as a trouble maker and put him to death.
How could we allow someone that good to live?
But this sacrifice breaks apart in our hands.
We thought we were using him to feel good about our gang,
when all along, God was offering himself to us.
God shows us that we aren’t really like that,
needn’t be like that,
if only we let go of false security and group self-congratulation,
he moves us into a bigger world
where we don’t need to prove our goodness
because we know we are loved.
We can start to take down the boundaries.
Excluding people serves no purpose any more.
But we forget what God has done,
drop back into old ways,
huddle into cliques, and push others away.
We need a reminder of the hospitality of the cross.
We find it in bread and wine.
(Inspired by an article by James Allison)