People are interesting. The way we think, do things, express ourselves. We are interesting in all our little quirks, and habits, our cultural and religious preferences and lifestyles.
If you have ever travelled to a foreign country you will have been aware that there are sometimes vast differences amongst other people and cultures. However any well travelled person will tell you its wisdom to appreciate the culture you are in, and to respect and seek to understand their history and way of life. When we are away from home, instead of expecting everyone and everything to be the same as us, we marvel at the diversity and uniqueness of it all.
But as my eldest daughter pointed out to me today, how often do we not show the same courtesy and respect at home. Everyday we are surrounded by people who are different in some way from us. But how often do we feel threatened or annoyed by these differences? How often do we highlight those differences so that we can distance ourselves from others, rather than appreciating different points of view, mindsets and cultures?
Perhaps if when we are relating to others we expected to see things differently, and took it as a given that others would do things, and react differently from us. We wouldn’t expect people of different cultures to see or do things as we would, (perhaps we would even be disappointed if they did). But how often do we expect everyone to think and behave the same way as us in our everyday lives? What conflict and alienation from others has arisen because of those unrealistic expectations?
Our compassion and tolerance for ourselves, and for those around us always decreases drastically when we prohibit individual differences. Instead wouldn’t it be far more beneficial to shift from merely tolerating differences, to seeking to truly understand and honour the fact that God has made us all unique and special. For each of us to look for our similarities rather than our differences; to what draws us together, rather than what separates us.
The bible teaches that we all only see with the revelation and knowledge we have been given at this point in time. In other words none of us as yet “know it all”, or “have it all together”.
“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13-14)
Put simply each one of us needs a lot of love and grace to walk alongside one another. A love and grace that helps us embrace our uniqueness, appreciate our varied cultures, and respect one another’s differences, understandings, beliefs and values.
But God is able to do what is seemingly impossible for us to do alone. He is the grace giver, and the one who is able to fill our hearts with love where once there was only mistrust, intolerance and hurt. Today, ask Him to reveal His heart for those around you. For those you may find difficult or just feel are too different for you to have anything to do with. His grace is enough, His love is big enough, and He is happy to share it around.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Prayer: Lord please help me to trust you enough to overcome my differences with others. For me to understand and appreciate that you made and love everyone, and actually expect me to do the same. I ask for you grace, love and acceptance to help me overlook any differences; that I might truly love everyone, and not just those who think or act the same as me. In Jesus Name amen.