A couple weekends ago my family and I spent some time with our Yazidi friend Azzat, and his wife and four kids at the Lincoln Children’s Museum. While we were there, Azzat spotted a large wall map, and he called us over so he could show us where he was from.
As he pointed to a tiny region in the northern part of Iraq, Azzat described what happened the morning ISIS invaded his village. He traced his finger along his family’s escape route, away from the mountain where hundreds of Yazidi people, trapped by ISIS, would later die of starvation and dehydration.
Azzat also explained that the Yazidi people have been persecuted by ISIS because they are not “people of the book,” as he put it. Unlike Christians, who have the Bible (which isn’t to say Christians have not been persecuted by ISIS); Jews, who have the Torah; and Muslims, who have the Koran, the Yazidi people do not have a sacred text. Their lack of a sacred book is unacceptable to radical extremist groups like ISIS.
It’s where ISIS draws the line and how they justify their persecution of the Yazidi people.
God used Azzat’s story to remind me that I, too, have a line I’ve drawn. Obviously I’m not going to execute anyone on the other side of my line. But what I realized, in reflecting on Azzat’s story, is that there are people on one side of my line I accept, and on the other side, people I am against.
I did not vote for Donald Trump, and in the months following his election, I have publicly denounced what I consider his moral and ethical flaws and his hostile views of marginalized people. Privately, in my heart and among my closest confidants, I have also denounced those who elected Donald Trump president.
It’s been easy for me to keep Trump supporters “over there,” on the other side of my line, in the “unacceptable” camp. Easy, that is, until I opened my Bible and read this verse in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
“Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.” (4:5-8)
Note Paul’s word choice: “to all you meet.” He isn’t referring only to the people we consider “on our side.” According to Paul, we are to be on the side of everyone we meet, not just the people who think, act, look, worship, or vote like we do.
My friend Helen did not vote for Donald Trump. However, in the days following the election, instead of railing publicly or privately against those “on the other side,” Helen made a different choice: she invited a small group of Trump supporters to her home to share a meal and conversation.
In extending that invitation, Helen made it clear that she was interested in working with, rather than against, the people who thought and voted differently from her.
As she later explained, “We would do well by each other to share a meal with those whose perspectives differ from our own in an effort to understand the complexity of their humanness. We mature and grow when we spend time with those who challenge us.”
I don’t know who is on the other side of your line. But I do know this: even when we don’t stand with their beliefs, we can and should stand with all our brothers and sisters, each of whom has been created in the image of God.
This post was originally published in the Lincoln Journal Star.