Thursday, December 26, 2013

Eyes of a Stranger

Jesus said that two commandments summarize the spiritual life: Love God and love your neighbor. The second one is found in nearly every culture as the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. In other words, treat others as you want to be treated.

I like the way Jesus puts it: Love your neighbor as yourself. Embedded in Christ’s teaching is a deeper intuitive truth. If we look at our neighbor closely, we see ourselves. We recognize ourselves in others. Perhaps we could go as far as to say that our neighbor is our self in disguise.

When I look into the eyes of my neighbor I see myself looking back. It is like looking in the mirror. The details of the face look different than the one I see in the mirror, but behind those eyes I see myself. If we truly look into anyone’s eyes, we see a consciousness which is indistinguishable from our own.

Only the details of our personal histories separate us. If I had been born to his parents in his country, I would be him. If I had been raised in her culture, I would think like she thinks. We have different life experiences, but there is no important difference between my neighbor and me.

Sometimes people say, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” That is not really accurate. It is closer to the truth to say, “There I am.” That is why the Hebrew Scriptures exhort us to treat the stranger and the foreigner as ourselves. Beneath the ethnic, racial, gender, cultural and religious differences, the other person is me.
This is also true of my enemy. That is why Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies.” I am my enemy living incognito. We hold different views on important matters. We have been taught by our cultures, governments, and religions to hate one another. But on closer inspection, hatred of enemy is just a form of self-hate.

God made us all in his image. That image is what I see in the eyes of the neighbor, the stranger, and the enemy. To hate anyone is to hate God. To love the other is to love God and myself. To see this truth for yourself, just look deeply into the eyes of the next stranger you meet.
The Enemy vs. The Inner Me, a painting by Duy Huynh. Here is his website

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