"Now then, I pray you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father's house…."
Joshua 2: 12
"How To Treat A 'PF'"
"Fear of difference is fear of life itself."
M. O. Follett
How do I treat those who are different than I am?
"The fact that we are human beings is infinitely more important than all the peculiarities that distinguish human beings from one another."
Simone de Beauvoir
Having worked with charities around the world for over 25 years, one of the most interesting and significant things I have witnessed is the unique harmony that develops among extremely varied individuals during times of disaster or crisis.
In particular, I saw for myself, during several devastating earthquakes in California, how different races and religions came together for the common care and concern of an entire community. Ironically, at other times, these very same groups had been at each other's throats, hurling nasty words and demeaning anyone who even suggested that cooperation and unity could exist.
Unfortunately, it is very apparent in our world today, that this statement by Deborah Tannen in her book, You Just Don't Understand, seems to be the norm: "When those closest to us respond to events different than we do, when they seem to see the same scene as part of a different play, when they say things that we could not imagine saying in the same circumstances, the ground on which we stand seems to tremble and our footing is suddenly unsure."
This is the scenario that played out in the life of Rahab. Think about the situation. Two Israelite spies, God's chosen people, enter the walled city of Jericho and proceed directly to the house of a harlot named Rahab. These spies, I am certain, never expected to be greeted by the words of a heathen woman: "I know your God." This was probably the last thing those men expected to hear. Someone they labeled "heathen," "Canaanite," and prostitute, as we found out yesterday, not only knew their God, but also had ultimate and total faith in their God – even more faith than many of the Israelites themselves displayed in their journey from Egypt to Canaan.
At the mercy of Rahab for protection from the king of Jericho, the spies had to rely on her compassion and kindness. They had to believe she truly had their welfare and interest at heart. Just like the disaster workers I've seen working hand in hand. Despite physical, emotional and even religious differences – I've seen kindness cross boundaries erected by human bigotry and downright meanness, and consequently, the light of love was sprinkled on those who needed it most.
Mother Teresa said, "I prefer you to make mistakes in kindness than work miracles in unkindness."
This is certainly an essential lesson we can learn from the relationship which developed between the Israelite spies and a Canaanite harlot. In her poem, "The Miseries of Man," Anne Killigrew wrote:
"The bloody wolf, the wolf does not pursue;
The boar, though fierce, his tusk will not embrue.
In his own kind, bears, not on bears do prey;
Thou art then, man, more savage far then they."
How sad, we as humans so frequently take the differences which divide and try to use them to create impassable chasms. Way too often, when someone isn't just like me, I will turn away while I completely forget we are all alike – made of flesh and bones. As Frances Harper so beautifully penned, "We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul."
As we reflect on the kindness shown by Rahab to the spies, and in return, the protection promised to this Canaanite woman, we would do well to remember the words of Henry Drummond: "The greatest thing (we) can do for our heavenly Father is to be kind to His other children." This is the way to win over a "PF." "Potential Followers" of the King of Heaven cannot be drawn with hostile claims or critical creeds – but as the Bible tells us – they can be drawn with heaven's cords of love.
I love this poem entitled, My Neighbor, written by Monica Furlong:
"I am glad You made my neighbor different from me;
A different colored skin,
A different shaped face;
A different response to You.
I need my neighbor to teach me about You;
She knows all the things I don't know."
And Rahab said: "I know – the Lord – He is God of heaven above and on earth beneath; I have shown you kindness, will you also show kindness to my father's house?" (Joshua 2: 9, 11, 12).
"We are each of us angels with only one wing. And we can only fly embracing each other."
Luciano De Creschenzo
"Lord, look in Your mercy on (us) lest we, Your people who know You, should shut the doors against the others whom You love to draw to Yourself; because the yare too different, too difficult, or too demanding."