One of my assignments with Greater Indy Habitat is to keep a blog about our Interfaith Builds- the very thing that drew me to this placement.
Over the course of participating in a few of the builds, discussing it with a few coworkers and covolunteers, and attending an interfaith dinner, I compiled what eventually became my first draft of my first blog post for Habitat.
That draft ultimately became two different versions of the same post. One will get uploaded to the Greater Indy Habitat website at some point, and the other is what follows:
The peoples of this world are not at a lack for vulnerability. Our propensity toward apprehension, segregation, and self-isolation is as densely embedded in our personal structures as our own DNA, and though we most often build up these entities of separation and fear as a defensive effort to protect our individual identities, they only ever actually serve to weaken our collective humanity. Our worries about our vulnerabilities push us into creating further vulnerability for ourselves. We let our fear of others manipulate our judgment, and create barriers to distance ourselves from one another, chopping off the pieces of humanity that were meant all along to be together as one body.
That was probably a bit too dark of a way to introduce my first post on this blog, so let me change the pace pretty drastically here with what I consider one of the most overarchingly meaningful Bible verses I know:
“Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.”
-1 Peter 4:8
“Love covers a multitude of sins.” That idea is crucial to my understanding of the Christian faith. Jesus’ death is swathed in that theology, and it is paramount to how I believe we are to respond to that sacrifice. “Above all,” this is how we are meant to act. “Above all,” this is how we are meant to think. “Above all,” this is how we are meant to be.
But there is discord within us. We dissect the verse and its intentions, consciously or otherwise. We neglect or misunderstand the motivation, and we question entirely the definition of “one another.”
This compelled me to look into the etymology of the phrase “one another.” For me, that ultimately meant clicking on the first few links, and checking a few links within those links, after googling the phrase, “’one another’ etymology.” I didn’t find much, probably because I obviously didn’t try very hard, but one thing that stuck out to me through it was the juxtaposition of the two words involved. “One” implies unity and similarity. “Another,” being an early 13th century merger of “an” and “other,” implies separation and difference.
However, when you put these words together (which I just learned started in the 1520s CE, if that’s interesting to anybody), you get a profoundly meaningful combination which often goes overlooked. Though we are “other,” separated by faith, ethnicity, race, sex, or anything else, we are ultimately still “one.” We are unified because we are all human. We are unified because we are all made in the Image of God. We are unified because, only when we are unified, do we begin to see the full Image of God that is present within us, through us, and between us.
In the Gospel of Luke, chapter ten, the parable of the Good Samaritan perfectly illustrates exactly how we are meant to “maintain constant love for one another.” Though the Samaritan was of a culture which regularly found itself in harsh conflict with the Jewish man’s culture, he loved him well, and saved his life in doing so. That is the definition of whom we are to love, and how we are to do it. That is my theological understanding of Peter’s usage of the phrase, “one another.”
The verse in 1 Peter also points to what happens when we fail to love one another though. The multitude of sins, the thing that separates us from God, distorting the Image of God in us, and drawing geopolitical and cultural borders that get used to define humans as “other,” rather than “one another,” becomes uncovered. The darker aspects of our humanity, the pieces of us which are overrun by fear and mistrust, are empowered by it. We see the apprehension, segregation, and isolation I mentioned earlier begin to take hold, and everything that comes with that.
We see men in turbans, getting frisked at the airport and catching glares of mistrust on the streets. We see women in burkas, forced to change from the emblems of their faith at the beach. We see people of color, being shot, strangled, and abused, often killed, for no reason, every time we open an internet browser. We see refugee children, their bodies washed up on the shores of lands that let them die.
But that’s not all we see in this world.
A few days ago, I had the privilege of witnessing and participating in an Interfaith Build with Habitat. I saw people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs come together in service to their fellow human. I saw them learn from one another, as they began to grow in understanding of one another’s belief systems, and respect for one another. I saw people recognize and cherish the similarity in values across faith backgrounds, and I saw them appreciate the differences, without ignoring them, or fighting over them.
Most of all, I saw them build. I saw people coming together around a wooden frame, and pouring their sweat, energy, and time into making something out of it. They did it together. They did it with one another, and in many ways, for one another.
Habitat has found a powerful and radical means of service in these Interfaith Builds. It’s not just about building houses for people who couldn’t otherwise attain them, though that would be enough. It’s not just about providing an effective and meaningful outlet for people to serve one another and express their deep-seated values, though that would be enough. It’s about bringing people together. It’s about learning from and sharing with one another. It’s about maintaining constant love for one another, and it has the potential to be the most beautiful thing Habitat’s ever done.