I have lots of people in my life who are very different from me. I have friends who are professional, starched, button-down, pressed & who have life wrapped around their little finger mostly. I have other friends who are a little more like me, less polished & borderline bohemian.
But loving well is the bridge that connects me with people regardless of our differences. And here’s the truth that needs to reside in the marrow of our bones: people don’t have to be like us to be loved by us. Indeed, Jesus loved a wide spectrum of people, including cheats, hustlers, liars, whimps & wannabes. Loving people is an internal decision & this doesn’t need to be dependent on who they are, what they do or how they behave. Let’s be committed to loving well!
Less than two weeks ago, I was inching through Dhaka Bangladesh, one of the world’s most densely populated cities, with around 25million. Now, we’re driving through Wyoming, the least populated state in the US. Just below are two videos to show the contrasts:
Today, I’m in Bangledesh & I like being here because of the wonderful people. They are super friendly & very hospitable. Unfortunately, this country is one of the poorest countries in the world. They have annual floods that routinely displace thousands of people, killing large pockets of the population in these horrendous floods. Additionally, the education system here is still developing, so the literacy rate is a challenge. Bangladesh has 160 million people & its 90% Muslim, 8% Hindu & 2% mixture. There’s generally a high level of respect for the various differences among the ethnicities, religions & social classes here.
Today, we’ll be going around the capital city, Dhaka, & I’m super keen to spend some time here! There are about 30million people in this urban area with lots of diversity in the spectrum of poverty to wealthy. As I’m in this city, I know I’ll see things that I don’t like, but I want to see with God’s of compassion, healing & welcome. Let’s be careful that we don’t turn away from things we don’t like, when God wants us to engage & express genuine love 🙂
“You’re not going to North Korea are you?” I was driving my kids to school this morning & made a phone call to another ministry about some cool opportunities in North Korea. My kids immediately asked this question when I hung up & I assured them that I’m not going there this year. But it still sounds like an incredible opportunity to me!
Alas, not everyone thinks like I do & that’s altogether fantastic! Seems to me that God has uniquely created us for distinct purposes & designs. Some people are attracted to stable, predictable & familiar. Some folk have a little wanderlust in their souls. Some of us are pioneers & more than a little maverick-y. But each follower of Jesus has valid contributions to make to His kingdom!
Just because I’m different than you doesn’t make me superior or inferior any more than you are superior or inferior to me! Let’s remember that we are essential parts of one Body & we desperately need each other to fulfill our unique & divine purposes! I’m celebrating you today!!
I have a friend & our feet are always cold, so we give each other wool socks. In Denver today, it’s cold so we are both celebrating our warm feet because of the gracious gift of wool socks! I have another friend who wears flip flops in Denver even when it snows, almost. This friend doesn’t have a cold feet problem but maybe has the opposite end of the spectrum. I totally love both of these peeps & I love that they see and experience life through different lenses, each vibrantly beautiful & wholesome.
This makes me appreciate our Heavenly Father all the more for His immense and unique love for each one of us. We don’t have to match up to a marketing profile to be loved by God. Indeed, it seems to me that we are most thoroughly loved by our Heavenly Father as we revel in His unique design for us individually. Based on Romans 5:5, you are fully loved by your Heavenly Father, full stop. The Holy Spirit can help you live in this reality day by day 🙂
Our modern culture applauds tolerance with great conviction. We are strongly encouraged to tolerate all kinds of diversity (spicy food, GF diets, people with different ideas, age diversity, socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicity, religion etc). In general, I think that tolerance is a nice idea but sometimes it’s application can get hazy. For example:
truth will never tolerate deception & vice versa (antonyms are inherently intolerant)
intimacy will never tolerate violence
genuine love will never tolerate indifference or apathy
While I think that tolerance is a nice idea, let’s not think that it should be the guiding principle nor conviction for our daily living. Tolerance should never replace genuine love 🙂
I’ve had the massive privilege of getting to travel alot in my life & this privilege means that I’ve experienced a really WIDE ARRAY of cultures & diversity. It’s interesting that what we Americans get uptight about for culturally acceptable isn’t the same for many other cultures. For example, it’s TOTALLY uncool to pick your teeth in China, but not a big deal to pick your nose – interesting differences.
Here’s my point, the true culture of Christianity according to John 13:35 is genuine love. As a follower of Jesus, my native culture is genuine love – water to my gills, air to my lungs, light to my eyes & touch in my heart. I want to live in genuine love, bringing my native culture throughout each day & interaction.
My husband & I are discussing the different kinds of gifts that our kids want for Christmas: the boys want air hogs (a hovering helicopter that can shoot missiles, or something like that) & American Girl doll stuff. He’s commenting that the American Girl doll stuff is lame & I can just envision my boys remote controlling a helicopter to shoot missiles at me while I cook – not so much :/
Here are some great things about these differences:
they add variety – if the world were all dolls or hovering helicopters, we’d complain about the monotony
growing opportunities – it seems to me that we often grow the most when things are very different from our expectations & norms
new perspectives & deeper understanding – when I don’t dismiss differences, I open the door to understand someone else more deeply
genuine love – not because someone is like us, but rather because we want to see them enjoy what is not harmful & what they like
respect – appreciating diversity allows us to show respect & helps foster relationships
Although my husband & I share very similar values & priorities, we are quite different. Generally, that works out well for us. Sometimes if we’re not careful, however, we can let our differences be divisive rather than complementary – like the idea of acute & obtuse in Geometry ,)
But here’s my thinking on this topic of differences in relationship: it seems to me that some of the best relationships are not between people who are clones, but rather between people who allow for differences in personality & style. I think that having relationships that tolerate differences are very important because they can help you appreciate the many different ways that God loves you & the diversity of ways in which He communicates with us. Diversity can have some rich potential 🙂