Love or Fear of the Other?
Posted by Dr. Larry Taylor
Fear of outsiders, of foreigners, is rampant in society. The other is characterized as “rapists and murders,” or “terrorists.” Walls are built. Children are ripped from their parents. People are deported. We are very afraid.
But, Scripture says, perfect love casts out fear.
Perichoresis (from Greek: περιχώρησις perikhōrēsis, “rotation”) is a term referring to the relationship of the three persons of the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to one another. It means, “mutually indwelling.” The Holy Trinity is One God living in perfect community, harmony, familial relationship as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father pours His love into the Son and Holy Spirit; the Son pours His love into the Father and Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit pours His love into the Father and Son. Everything about God is other oriented.
God makes space for the other. God created humankind in order to pour His love into us. God created nature in order to pour His love into it. He does so in the hope that we will use our freewill to pour our love (which He gives us) into Him, one another and creation.
The Garden of Eden was a Temple in which God dwelt with humans. The humans rejected that love. God responded by raising up a people via Abraham who were to be a blessing to all nations as God poured His love into them, and they poured their love into God and others, including the Gentile nations. They did not. Instead, they pridefully became a closed community, interpreting their special calling as exclusive favor. God responded by becoming human. The incarnation of Christ is God becoming human; God with us – Emmanuel. At the cross, God demonstrated the ultimate pouring out of love, not only for friends, but for enemies as well.
Hebrews 13:2 says: Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. The word translated “hospitality” is Φιλοξενία (philoxenia), literally, love of the foreigner, or love of the other. It’s opposite is xenophobia (ξένος (xenos), meaning “strange”, “foreigner”, or “other” and φόβος (phobos), meaning “fear”)
To follow Jesus means to welcome the “other,” the one who is different, regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, education, language, race, creed, nationality, or legal status. No follower of Jesus can tolerate xenophobia. Am I making space for the other?