By the time I was 17 years old my family had moved 9 times. I had lived in 3 different countries and 4 different US states. Starting new schools and making new friends became routine and yet it was consistently hard to push past the barriers that divided us. It was rare that anyone my age even knew where the country of my birth, Papua New Guinea, was on a map. Most kids I tried to make friends with hadn’t even been out of the state they lived in let alone out of America. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t seem to get past the walls of difference.
God created each person to be incredibly unique, gifted, and diverse but it seems that these differences often separate us. We seem to be the most comfortable around people who look like us, talk like us, or are interested in similar things. But don’t you think this goes against the grain of God’s image? For people who are made in the image of a magnificently creative God we should naturally appreciate the beauty of difference. You and I are both part of an infinite display of diverse beauty. When is the last time you were captivated by something or someone who was vastly different than you?
Walls exist only because we build them, and these social walls can deprive us of truly experiencing what it’s like to see from God’s perspective, from seeing beauty. We build walls out of fears, our insecurities, or our selfishness but God’s gaze towards His creation from the beginning of time has been clear – it’s unconditional love. God can always see the beauty in what He created. There are no categories of superficial or personal preference with God. The theme of scripture is solid, “For God so loved the world…All of us have fallen short…We all are like sheep who have wandered off…To all who believe He gives them the right to be called Sons of God” To God, every skin color, size and shape, socio-economic level, cultural background, gender, or lifestyle is in desperate need of the love of God and can freely find full life in Jesus Christ. To paraphrase a song lyric: God makes beautiful things out of dust. He makes beautiful things out of us.
So how do we break through the dividing walls that exist?
1 – We need a heavenly perspective. We must see each person through the lens of the cross of Jesus Christ. God’s love for all mankind is manifested through the death and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ. “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,” (Eph. 2:14) “This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (I Jn. 4:10) God made the first move. He moved towards us with unrelenting, faithful, gracious, and life-giving love. He saved us from sin and death and gave us His new life. If God can move towards us in this extravagant way than we can move towards others, especially those who are different from us.
2 – We must seek the value in difference. I find it a common irony in marriage that most couples are composed of two very different people. Each spouse has their own preferences, personalities, communication styles, quirks, and gifts and yet together they can be stronger. Paul talks about the value of difference in I Corinthians 12. For a person’s body to function many different parts are required. In the same way a church, a team, or a family cannot fully function without embracing and depending upon its differences. There is both beauty and value in differences. Actually, it’s our differences that should bring us together and not our similarities. Then, finding harmony in diversity becomes a goal to work towards instead of a situation to avoid.
Think about those who are different from you. What walls separate you right now? What differences make you want to push back instead of towards them? How could these differences actually bring greater perspectives or purposes than what you see now?
Chose this week not to discount people because of their differences but instead to lean towards them and pursue community. Intentionally look for unique and different people you could partner with for something great. Find ways to appreciate the diversity of people. You just might step into the most world-changing and beautiful community you’ve ever experienced!