Loving ‘the stranger’

A Christian Science perspective: Study and inspiration on how we treat others.

While much public global conversation centers around xenophobia – the intense dislike or fear of strangers – many are looking at how to pray about this for healing solutions.

One might find that the solution to xenophobia might be “xenophilia.” This is the love of strangers and the Greek word for “hospitality.”

Yet I’ve come to see that the first biblical patriarch of Israel, Abraham, provides an example of hospitality that reveals spiritual underpinnings. While he himself had traveled far from his native land of Ur to seek a new homeland, his expression of love exceeds human friendliness and enters the realm of the Divine. The Bible says: “The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, ‘My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree’ ” (Genesis 18:1-4, New Revised Standard Version).

Abraham must have glimpsed that God is the creator of all, as the prophet Malachi proclaimed: “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?” (2:10)

Both patriarch and prophet perceived something of the understanding that the foundation of unity derives from our single creator, God, inspiring us to treat others with kindness and graciousness. Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy explains in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “When the divine precepts are understood, they unfold the foundation of fellowship, in which one mind is not at war with another, but all have one Spirit, God, one intelligent source, in accordance with the Scriptural command: ‘Let this Mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus’ ” (p. 276).

In particular, Christ Jesus demonstrated a vivid sense of God’s love, throughout his ministry. By embodying Malachi’s perception that God, Spirit, is the Father of all, the Master saw his fellow man as God’s children, not as dangerous, broken, sick, dislocated, or sinning. This recognition resulted in healing, restoration, and renewal for all he encountered.

Understanding all to be children of Spirit enables us to express the healing love Jesus demonstrated. Because we are all created by God, we each have the inherent ability to see beyond merely material labels to perceive others as all are created to be, spiritual and perfect. Taking this spiritual view allows us to see people not as strangers, but as part of the family of God. It removes fear and strengthens our love of others. Practicing Christ Jesus’ form of love is an antidote to contemporary challenges of racism, discrimination, and prejudice, wherever they rear their head.

Whether we meet someone new in person, or through the lens of media, we can practice a love that affirms his or her spiritual identity, regardless of ethnicity or religion. This spiritual seeing, as Christ Jesus practiced, inspires us all to find practical, healing solutions to meet each need.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.