Us and Them

by Gemma Uren

High school is an interesting place. Aside from the obvious receiving of an education, the main thing you experience is the reality of being plonked with a bunch of people and forced to co-exist for the best part of five years.

Most likely, you found a group to belong to who flocked together like birds of a feather to make it through the high school experience.

I was in the alternative group. We spent most of our lunches hiding in the art room, wearing black on black and listening to The Smashing Pumpkins as we self-imploded.

It was safe, it helped me survive the high school experience being a part of something, to be accepted and to feel superior to the “less cool groups” in our year.

This was the birth of the "Us & Them" mentality in my world.

However, it seems to me that I am not alone in this behaviour.

As I reflect on my experiences and observe human behaviour, I see the "Us and Them" mentality perpetuated time and time again.

We seem naturally drawn to people who are just like us, who think the same as us, who have the same opinions and who share similar political or religious viewpoints as us.

The problem with this model is that when you operate like this, your world becomes increasingly insular, your horizons remain unstretched, your views unchallenged and inevitability you isolate and hurt the many other people who do not fit into the safe little box you’ve created.

The least

The poor

The unlikable

The one who is sexuality different than you

The mentally ill

The elderly

The stranger

Us Aussies reckon we are pretty tops when it comes to diversity. It’s a boasting point for Australians that we are a melting pot of culture and we are generally a very accepting people. Now, I am not saying this is untrue, however there are huge gaps in that assumption.

The First Australians are considered one of the most disadvantaged Indigenous Peoples in the world with suicide rates being higher than any other country.

People who flee from war torn countries and abject poverty to find safety in Australia are not welcomed with open arms. They are turned away and placed in prison like environments but - unlike a prison sentence - they are given no hope of ever being released.

Children are still bullied for being overweight, for illness beyond their control, or for being any kind of different. A survey of schools in about 40 countries found that Australian primary schools were among those with the highest reported incidences of bullying in the world.

Boardrooms continue to under-represent women and 10,000+ Australians voted in a Senator who perpetuates the fear of Muslim people.

But then the voice of hope shouts in the wilderness of such disturbing realities.

The voice of Jesus. He is a breath of fresh air when I reflect on our "Us and Them" tendencies.

He deliberately sought out the "Thems" of society

The ones who people passed by in the street

The ones who were cast out of their communities

The ones who no one bothered about

The ones caught in adultery

His words in the book of Matthew perfectly summarise his modus operandi:

"If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:46-48, NLT)

If you call yourself a follower of Jesus, you’ll soon learn "Us and Them" cannot exist in the life you have chosen, a life modelled after the life of Jesus.

I have been a follower of Jesus for seven years and realised only at the beginning of 2016 that I did not know one single aboriginal person.

This broke me.

I began deliberately befriending aboriginal people, listening to their story, and learning about their way of life. Up until recently I didn’t know any refugees. Now I sit wide eyed and amazed when I listen to what they have gone through, in awe of their resilience despite experiencing such adversity.

I think Jesus was onto something golden when he befriended the “Thems” of the world

because when you sit with the “Thems”,

when you eat with the “Thems”,

when you become friends with the “Thems”,

They are “Thems” no longer,

They just become “Us”.

Imagine a world where we all chose to befriend each “Them” in our community.

“Them” would simply disappear and there would just be “Us” remaining.

And I dare say that this could be the beginning of Our Kingdom Come.

Alex McKellar1 Comment