There’s a curious sentence in Psalm 23 that unsettles me. David writes, “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.” In the same passage where the king presents God as the Good Shepherd and celebrates his provision, he throws in this radical thought about eating with enemies as if that’s totally normal.
The idea of actually sitting down with those who might be on the opposite side of the ideological fence is appealing. But how do we move beyond our default behaviors of avoiding and marginalizing our enemies to breaking bread with them?
Surrounding ourselves with people who look and think like us is a difficult habit to overcome. Sameness brings us comfort (we don’t need to explain ourselves), acceptance (we tend not to judge those who are like us), and at least a semblance of peace (we are less likely to fear those who resemble us).
One could argue that this tendency is simply human nature, done reflexively and without malice. It’s also human nature to steal, lie, and cheat. So why do most of us try to resist stealing, lying, and cheating but give ourselves permission to remain in largely insular subgroups?
While some would attribute this tendency to genetics and/or education, the spiritual components should not be overlooked. Unforgiveness, envy, pride, anger, and perhaps—most deeply—fear, all serve as barriers to those who are unlike us.
Fear combines the physiological/biological component that causes our hearts to race and our palms to sweat with the deeper psychological/spiritual component of which we are largely unaware but often beholden. Our fear of those who are different has two roots: scarcity and compromise.
Even when we are not in danger, ...1
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