I am great lover of diversity.
When I pray about the fullness of the kingdom of God, I visualize diverse people of every type gathering around huge open tables, communing by sacred bread, wine and laughter and uniting together in Love in their actions of justice. The classic images of diversity come to mind for me quite quickly: different races, cultures, languages, and ages in particular.
I suspect, though, that for God the diversity that is needed is deeper than the visual differences. We need everyone, no matter who they are, to feel free to sit at our tables with us.
It’s beautiful when people who look different gather together and unite. But, what about when people think and believe differently?
Certainly, there’s much tension and confusion when people just completely disagree about principles and values. We don’t have to look too far into any political news to recognize how diversity can be damaging or even disastrous. Personally, the more I grow in understanding of who I am and what I believe, the more challenging it can become to relate to people whose lifestyles and values are completely different than mine. When I admit this, I become embarrassed. Isn’t a point of Christianity to witness to what’s different? When did I only want to hang out with people like me? (Can you believe that in some circles I’m actually pretty normal? Ha!)
My life of Christian service and witness causes me to encounter people who are completely outside of my norm and bubbles, as it should. It’s not a surprise to me that many- if not most- people live their lives without any experience of real Christian church and base their morality on what feels right and good. Sometimes when people behave in ways that I am strongly morally opposed to I feel like all can do is become awkward. Likewise, friendship can feel nearly impossible when a person boldly tells me that he or she don’t want to believe in God nor does he or she like Christianity or religion at all. Sometimes diversity can feel insulting. Sometimes I want to pull my hair out in the struggle.
Basically, I tend to prefer that my friends believe the same things as me. It’s easier and supporting. Or, is it?
I don’t want to be judgmental. I try to love and listen when I am hanging out with people who spend their time and money on the things that I try to preach against. Although I feel a sense of confidence in my faith and my opinions are quite strong, the real challenge is to remain open-minded and allow for my own conversion in the face of challenging diversity. I try not to respond with criticism and instead only offer my opinions when asked. I believe my loving presence is valuable, yet sometimes diversity can be so frustrating. I bite my tongue so much it bleeds and pound my head against the wall so much that it bruises.
When God made us all different, I wonder how we were to live with it. Beating my head up against a wall and pulling out my hair is probably not what God had in mind. I believe that we are called to lovingly accept all people but not all behavior. I believe we’re to witness to the counter-cultural Gospel way through love and service.
I believe it’s all about openness. As I serve with an open heart, I must keep an open mind. As I live outside of my comfort zone and get stretched into weird shapes, I must remain grounded in Christ. Grounded in Christ and open to all, the strangest situations can bring me closer to Him. I hope and pray that as I live in the openness of God’s love and diversity, I come to know the Truth that shall set me free from all that head-banging and social awkwardness.
As I fumble through this, I remain open. As I open, I gain awareness. It’s a blessing that God can grace me with wisdom and guidance. After all, it’s a gift that there’s really no one else just like me. And, it’s a comfort that my struggles and questions are sort of ancient stuff:
The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night.
God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
“O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king
to succeed my father David;
but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.
I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen,
a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.
Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart
to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.
For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”
The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.
So God said to him:
“Because you have asked for this—
not for a long life for yourself,
nor for riches,
nor for the life of your enemies,
but for understanding so that you may know what is right—
I do as you requested.
I give you a heart so wise and understanding
that there has never been anyone like you up to now,
and after you there will come no one to equal you.” –1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12s