Shedding Light

Reflecting the Other


This is a picture offered for discussion.


What does it say to you?


For me, 'Reflecting the Other' says something about opposites and how one aspect is reflected in the other. This can relate to all kinds of things.


In our personal relationships for example, and how we reflect something of the other as we grow in understanding and appreciation of each other. Without realising it, we often 'reflect the other' in the way we sit or stand. Alternatively, hear a person on the phone listening to someone with a different accent, and you might hear that accent being reflected back.


Sometimes we see more of ourselves by allowing our light to be reflected in the other person, and to allow the ‘other’ to be reflected in us.


On a different topic, the sharp divide between the black and white in the picture reminds me of walls on separation. I thank God that the Western Front, the Berlin Wall, and the Iron Curtain are dismantled, and pray today for Jerusalem, Korea and Ukraine. How do we break down barriers? How do we impart mutual respect and interdependence? How do we build bridges? We start with an exchange like the reflected light in the picture. We share and receive from the other.


South Africa and Northern Ireland are examples where light has been shed from one community to another, resulting in reconciliation and better community relations. Both places remind us that the process has been - and continues to be - difficult and that our prayer in these countries need to be ongoing, but we can create a better world by 'Reflecting the Other'.


I further reflect on the picture as I am a Christian wanting to share myfaith and working for Churches Together in England.


Dialogue is key developing relationships and should be at the heart of the way in which we share the Christian faith too. Often, when we have had a personal experience or hold a strong conviction, we tend to impose a view of what we think the other person needs, rather than allowing a dialogue to inform.


‘Reflecting the Other’, however, begins with listening and requires discernment and prayer. Speaking personally, the more I read the Gospels, the more I see the principles worked out in the person of Jesus, so I think I should adopt that model too.


Consider for example, his encounters with Peter, James and John and what they bring out in the character of Jesus, as well as the profound influence Jesus has on them. This is also illustrated in his dealing with Nicodemus or the Woman at the Well, or Mary and Martha. They all shed light on the person and character of Jesus as he sheds light on them. How do we shed light on each other? How do we reflect the other?


Fo me, this picture illustrates the 'principle of paradox' explored in Paradox in the Gospel? ( where I explore a theological principle that truth can be found in opposites. Consider for a moment, Jesus being both God and Man, and Mary being a Virgin Mother. A study of the Gospel of Matthew illustrates over 20 other examples where opposites co-exist in the Bible.


A further exploration in relation to the reflecting the 'other', is our relationship between quite different Christian traditions in what is often called the 'ecumenical journey'. In the work of 'Churches Together'  we use the phrase ‘Receptive Ecumenism’. This describes what we receive from each other.


‘Reflecting the Other’ speaks to me of the beginning of this important process and how we all have something to offer one another, from whatever tradition we come. Roman Catholic and Pentecostal Churches, for example, have been in dialogue for many years and invites the question ‘where will it lead?’


For me, all of this reflection is summed up in a quote from the Preface to the 2nd Edition of Christianity Rediscovered by Vincent Donovan (Fourth Impression 1986 p vii):


‘Do not try to call them back to where they were, and do not try to call them to where you are, as beautiful as that place may be to you. You must have the courage to go with them to a place where neither you nor they have ever been before’.


How does this picture inform our relationship with people who are different to us? Consider our inter-relationships, faith, traditions, and denominations. ‘Reflecting the Other’ is a picture to discuss.


Jim Currin, updated 2018