Why diversity should matter to you
Think about your circle of friends, the people who live on your street, and the people in your NewSpring Group. How many are a generation older or younger? Are they all middle class? Does anyone have an accent or a different skin color?
Here’s an even bigger question: Do we think it matters? Spiritually, does it even matter if everyone we interact with looks like us? After all, isn’t loving Jesus really what matters?
It’s natural to develop friendships with people we have lots in common with. But God invites us to be part of something supernatural. His family is full of variety and diversity, and it’s the ability to experience unity in spite of our differences that brings God glory and brings us joy.
Three Ways Spending Time with Different People Changes Us for the Better
1. It broadens our understanding of God.
Our understanding of God expands when we see Him through others’ perspectives. We tend to think of God in the context we have been raised and how we have encountered Him. But each of us has a unique story of how God has revealed Himself in our lives, and we get a fuller picture of who God is when we share our stories with one another.
God made mankind to reflect His image, and we do that best when we do it together (Genesis 1:27). There is no doubt God cares about race because He created us with differing skin tones on purpose (Psalm 139:13-16). He meticulously formed us to be perfect, exactly who He wanted us to be without mistake. And He gives us the gift of wisdom through multigenerational interactions, allowing the older to teach the younger and vice versa (Titus 2).
2. It deepens our compassion for others.
It is next to impossible to understand someone else’s perspective unless we spend some time in their shoes. Seeing stories in a book or on a screen are good, but they pale in comparison to experiencing the struggle of an actual friend.
We tend to feel sorry for people we don’t know. But when the person struggling is someone we know, the problem becomes real to us. Pity changes to empathy, and we’re moved to compassionate action. For example, I never thought twice about accessibility issues until I tried to enter a building without a ramp with a friend in a wheelchair. That relationship moved me from ignorant bystander to advocate.
When the person struggling is someone we know, the problem becomes real to us.
If we are serious about Jesus’ command to love like He does, we have to be willing to pursue our brothers and sisters the way He did. When we love people, we spend time with them. We can do a lot of good in the world from afar, but if we never take the time to love another, we miss what life is all about (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Jesus went so far as to say we can sum up the whole law by loving God and loving others (Matthew 22:35-40). We can only love others well if we’ve taken the time to learn what they need. If we can’t empathize with the hurts and struggles of others, we aren’t close enough.
3. It makes us more effective ministers of the Gospel.
Jesus tells us to go make disciples of all nations (Matthew 29:18). When we’re willing to get uncomfortable and spend time with people who don’t believe the things we do, we begin to understand their gods and their objections to the Gospel.
God loves the world, and we should, too (John 3:16). You are where you are for a reason. God cared so much about the neighbors who are atheists, He put them next door to you. God cared so much about the doctor who is a Muslim, He put you in that office.
You are where you are for a reason.
Apathy or ignorance isn’t a valid excuse not to pursue or care for those around us. Love compels us to figure out how to best share the Gospel because everything else pales in comparison.
Plenty of people around us could expand our capacity to minister to others. We just have to reach out and ask. We are less likely to make assumptions about someone when we know them, and we are less likely to fear people who are different when we’re willing to hear their stories.
To pursue uncommon unity is to build relationships with a variety of people rather than a comfortable few. We can stay in our safe cliques, or we can develop meaningful friendships with people who aren’t like us. If we’ll try the latter, we might find new paths of healing and unity by focusing on the faith we share, rather than being afraid of the things that make us different.