The "other" is a very popular concept within sociology, philosophy, and more particularly advocacy criticisms within religious studies. It is generally used to highlight differences between identities, deconstructing them with the goal of highlighting problems of power and oppression. It is a helpful category in some ways because it highlights how sinful human beings naturally act towards those who are different. It struck me this morning that Paul presents the only real answer to this problem of human existence. In the academic world, the frequent answer to the problem of seeing another as "other" is to challenge, divest, and redistribute power. Paul's solution to the problem is far more radical than that. He does not argue simply that we should love the "other." That's a dimly lit, one-way path; it allows one to walk towards the goal but only with restrictions. Rather, the category which fundamentally changes human existence is the "each other," found truly in the community of the redeemed in Christ. In Christ we no longer block the path of the "other"; instead we walk together on a wide, beautiful boulevard, enjoying the scenery together, helping each other along. I no longer oppose the "other" in a zero-sum game; instead we each lower our guard, consider one another as better than ourselves, and serve in love. This new mode of existence is highlighted in the "each other / one another" commands in Paul's writings. Take these two, for example:
Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. (Phil 2:3-4, NET)
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another. (Gal 5:13, NET)
Individuals in Christ are bound so tightly together that the category of "other" no longer functions. There is only "each other." There is no longer room for any distance between myself and the "other." We live with "each other" instead in one family with mutual relationships of love and service. The concept of "other" presents us with a problem of the sinful human condition; living together in Christ shows us that the "each other" is the only answer.