This is what the Lord, the Lord Almighty, says: “My people who live in Zion, do not be
afraid of the Assyrians, who beat you with a rod and lift up a club against you, as Egypt
did. Very soon my anger against you will end and my wrath will be directed at their
destruction.” – Isaiah 10: 24-25
After the Jewish people demonstrated repentance, God began planning the destruction of the
Assyrians, ironically for imposing suffering upon the Jewish people.
There are at least two interpretations of these verses. The first interpretation is comforting; it is a
reminder that even through suffering, God is present. Eventually, we all experience suffering, don’t
we? Wishing harm upon those we blame for our suffering is a part of our human experience.
Isaiah provides this reflection of our darker selves in the divine while simultaneously creating
feelings of empowerment, proclaiming God will never abandon us despite our shortcomings.
The second interpretation is less comforting. In these verses, we are confronted with a God that
allows for the creation of in- and out-groups—God others. While it is human to other, this image of
God is disconcerting. Yet, this image is useful because it allows for a better understanding of
ourselves. In-group membership allows for identify formation and provides a lens through which
we understand our world. However, in-group formation naturally results in out-group formation.
Frequently, we view persons in out-groups as inferior and worthy of misfortune—we other. When
we imagine God through our human lens, so does God. During this season of Advent, my prayer
is to not reflect on how I am othered, but rather on how I other. Through prayerful reflection, I
hope to ease my fear of those who are different, begin to find commonality with those whom I
other, and challenge the ways I see God’s activity in light of what I would do. The risk is high—my
identity and worldview, and even relationship with God, could be transformed—but this is
precisely the reasons it might be worthwhile.
Michael Wilkerson has attended St. Stephen’s since moving to Houston in 2013. Michael volunteers with the
Kadosh planning team and the bread-making team. He also volunteers with Grace Place and Lord of the Streets