Monday, November 4, 2013

November 2013 How do we love those who are different from us?

How do we love those who are different from us? God calls us to seek the lost. The angels in heaven rejoice when a sinner repents and through faith is added to church. Sometimes I struggle with the “adding to the church” part. It is one thing to invite someone to worship, but it is an entirely different thing to befriend them. What about the task of befriending someone who is substantially different from us? How can I befriend a homeless person or a gang member? What about people of different cultures, people of different ages and interests in life? Consequently, if we do not share our lives, our visitors remain isolated. And eventually they leave. So, how do we share our lives with people who are very different? --------------- A friend, who was a lawyer, told me that he was an alcoholic. He shared the support and power he received from an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group that he had joined. He told me about his first experience attending an AA meeting. It was in a church basement. At the time he was unsure about the whole AA thing. As he entered the meeting place he was confronted with a room filled with “Hell’s angels” biker guys, gang members with tattoos all over their body and a couple of “normal” looking people. He felt out of place. Seeing that he had nothing in common with the group, he thought to himself “well this isn’t going to work.” But he decided he would stay for the rest of the meeting anyway. What he experienced there was powerful. As each of the men introduced themselves, they shared their struggles against alcoholism. They shared their weakness against alcohol and their need for help… help from their fellow AA brothers… help from God. Each spoke of the success they experienced as they confessed their problem and lifted it to God. As my friend listened to the other men, he slowly realized that he was not as different from them as he thought. As he heard the struggles which the other men had faced he realized that he also faced the same problems. And in hearing their stories of overcoming alcoholism, he was encouraged in his own struggle. He found that the things that he originally thought separated them were just surface things. He found that, on a deeper level, they were the same. He found a powerful link in that their failures and struggles. And more to the point, it was their solution against alcoholism which united them. ---------------- As Christians we are faced with the same problem when dealing with people different from us. When we look at others, we may think there is nothing we have in common. How can I be friends with them? But if we are willing to take a true look at ourselves we will find that the things which separate us are just surface things. If we are willing to see ourselves as we truly are, we will realize that we all face the same problems. We all struggle against the powers of the Devil, the flesh and the world. We have a powerful link in our shared failures and struggles. And more to the point, we have a more powerful link through the same solution - Jesus Christ. When you meet someone new, look beyond the differences. See them as God sees them, souls for whom Jesus Christ died, people who God loves. Amen.