You, Them, It
I was reading a book of reflections on the letter to the Ephesians that referenced the writings of Martin Buber, a Jewish philosopher, and particularly his work “I and Thou.” The basic thought presented in this work as I understand it was this – how we relate to one another falls into one of two categories, either “I and Thou / You” or “I and It”.
I found this helpful. We could add a “We and Them” category to round things out. Here is how it works out for me. Maybe you can think about this in your own relationships. The “I and You” relationship is one that honors the other person as a person. This individual whom the Lord has placed in my path (family member, friend, neighbor, classmate) is a person made in God’s image, with gifts, sorrows, sins, joys, etc.… Learning to listen to this person’s story, spending time with him or her, asking questions, offering advice when asked, probing to understand where this person is coming from … all of these actions honor the person as a person, basically, are expressions of love for a neighbor. Of course if this individual is a Christian, a follower of Jesus, than this person is a brother or a sister, someone for whom Christ has shed His blood, someone with whom we are bound together and called to love, encourage, pray for and serve. This is a person whom I are growing with as we worship and work together in Christ’s Name and for His glory.
What are “I and It”s? These are relationships where the other person is an object, someone to be fixed or pitied, but never loved. The Pharisees labeled them tax collectors and sinners. Their names ultimately were unimportant. The truth that these men and women were made in the image of God was not essential. The point was that they had blown it. They were no longer righteous and so were on the outside, insignificant, to be avoided because one might become like them. They were “It”s.
How about “We and Them”? This is similar to “I” and “It” with the added sense of being opposed to one another. “I” / “It” isn’t so much about opposition, because an “It” is so far below the “I”. “We and Them” is also a group-ish way of thinking about relationships. Our culture sees lots of “It”s to help, e.g., the homeless, the addicted, the abused, the poor, and lots of “Them”s to hate, the Republicans, the Democrats, the illegals, and so on … basically, anyone that can be labeled as the enemy. A few minutes looking at the “comments” section of any article about anything controversial or sometimes not even controversial, will give the reader a good sense that America is a “we” / “them”, “I” / “it” culture.
Sometimes the church can just do the same thing as the culture, finding “It”s to help and “Them”s to hate. If there is something that has struck me as we have been working through Ephesians, is how “I” / “You” the relationships are. Barriers broken down, unity established, the call to be eager to maintain that unity, to be at peace with one another, to be patient with one another and so on. I am hopeful that as we relate to one another at Living Hope, it will always be as those who see Christ in the other person and so desire to love rather than to get something from the other person. Jesus Christ demonstrated in a profound sense “I” / “You” when He became man, lived, died and rose again that we might be united to Himself. He did not see us as “It”s to be saved, but as His people, the sheep who know His Name and whose names He knows. So let us follow Christ in this and dispose of “It” thinking, where others are there just to satisfy my needs or my guilt and move to “I / You”, where we are “speaking the truth in love, [growing] up [together] in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ …”