Getting to know your neighbor

Getting to know your neighbor

Posted: Saturday, February 28, 2015 7:25 am

Getting to know your neighbor By KEVIN HALL Pastor at New Life Assembly in Kittitas and contributing Columnist The Daily Record | 0 comments

One of my favorite movies from the “Movies-You-Love-But-Friends-Hate” category is a film called, “Mars Attacks.”

It’s a fleabag, sci-fi parody that majors in stupid humor. In one scene, Glen Close, who plays the first lady of the United States, fumes over the Martians using the Van Buren china. In another scene, Martians chase down earthlings disintegrating them with ray guns while calming saying, “Don’t run, we are your friends.”

These Martians are little stinkers. They eventually meet their doom by hearing Slim Whitman’s falsetto in a recording of Indian Love Song, which causes their oversized brains to explode. You can see why I love this movie … or not.

Last month, NASA’s planet hunter, the Kepler spacecraft, discovered two more Earth-like planets that may be capable of sustaining life. Their galaxies closely resemble our Earth-sun system, and from gazillion light years away, they appear to be a possible interstellar petri dish. NASA’s Natalie Batahla, when addressing the media about the discovery, exclaimed, “I’m over the moon.” Well played, Natalie, well played.

What if these planets do have humanlike life? What would they be like? Would they be like the little green men in “Mars Attacks?” Would they be like the lovable Marvin the Martian from the old Bugs Bunny cartoons? Would they be like M’Gann M’orzz, the uber-attractive and uber-cool — and at times, uber-annoying — Martian babe and Justice League member? Or maybe they might be like our next-door neighbor?

My neighbors are cool. I like them. We don’t talk as much as we should, but when we do, it’s usually interesting. Most like the Seahawks, others could care less. Some are gifted horticulturalists and some have brown Christmas trees lying in their yard. Some drive trucks; others ride bikes. Some like country western music, others, Bruno Mars. Maybe the latter is a Martian. I don’t know. It’s possible.

James Sire, author of “The Universe Next Door,” suggested that our next-door neighbor may have a worldview — a way of seeing life — that is so far removed from our own worldview that when we talk with them it seems like we are having a close encounter of the third kind. How they answer the big questions of life may seem strange to us. Answers to questions like: Is there a God? What happens to a person at death? Is truth knowable? Why am I here? can leave us shaking our head. We don’t just lean over fences; we lean over galaxies.

Sadly, what all too often happens when worldviews are discovered is a war of the worlds. Fear and suspicion are common reactions to people who see the world differently. Distance, rather than dialogue, is a frequent response.

Story of Jonah

In the Bible, a guy named of Jonah was called to enter into the life of the Ninevites in order to help them realign themselves with God. To say that Jonah didn’t like them is an understatement. I mean there was a lot not to like; unless, of course, you are a fan of brutality. So, Jonah, the reluctant prophet, prophesies God’s coming judgment upon them and then waits for the big kaboom.

But it never happens. Jonah’s response to God’s mercy has to be one of the strangest complaints of all time: “I knew you were a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (Jonah 4:2). It never occurs to Jonah, himself a rebel, what his own life would look like if God were made in Jonah’s image.

Jonah is not a story about the Ninevites. It’s about Jonah. It’s a story about prophets who have forgotten how to love. Today, Jonah is a message to the church regarding Martians, those who live in the universe next door. The message is radical and itself a knee knocker: love those who see the world differently than you, especially those you can’t stand.

The book has a strange ending. We are left hanging. We don’t know how Jonah will respond to God. Will he love his neighbors or will he pull out his ray gun? We are deliberately left hanging with this thought: will he come around to God’s worldview or remain stuck in our own?

Thomas Carlisle wrote a book of poems on Jonah’s life called “You. “The book ends with this verse:

And Jonah stalked
to his shaded seat
and waited for God
to come around
to his way of thinking.

God is still waiting. What will we do?

Kevin Hall is pastor of New Life Assembly in Kittitas. He is Josie’s husband and Hannah, Emily, and Kaisa’s dad. And as noted, he likes stupid movies.