Avid readers like us (I’m assuming you are, too, since you are taking time to read my blog- thanks!) are always finding great messages in books. Well, right now, I’m reading a book called Jesus in Blue Jeans by Laurie Beth Jones. In it, there’s a chapter about finding what unites us, rather than focusing on what divides us.
“He did not point out the numerous flaws, sins, and inadequacies of those around him…He sought common ground with people so that he could reach them, and teach them, and love them, where they were…He dressed like they dressed…He sought common ground.” Jones states in her beautiful book.
What divides us is obvious; from what we choose to spend money on, to the clothes we wear, to the individual beliefs of our denomination of religion, or even our lack of religion. What our task is (and the harder thing to do) is to find what unites us. But what do we stand together on?
One thing that stands out to me as a naturally occurring divider is something I’ve always been fascinated by: culture.
Our culture is something we don’t have complete control of. We’re born in a certain place with its own culture, to a family with its own fixed (and sometimes frightening!) traditions, and all that, plus other environmental variables, forms a culture of social norms and expected behavior all around us. It varies from nation to nation, state to state, even somewhat from region to region, as well as family to family.
To a lot of us, this creates an obvious huge barrier between us and our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, creating personal tiffs, massive divisions, even wars between nations.
“Why would they wear that?” we wonder.
“Why would they talk like that?” we muse.
“How can they believe such folly?” we ponder.
We’re all only human- it’s natural to notice, then focus, on such things, even regard the differences as weird, as though we’d never be able to relate, or have a thing in common, with said other group, whether it’s just a peculiar person, a separate religious institution, or a whole nation.
Another huge alienation between us and those we’re really just called to love, even when we’re from the same culture: when we get stuck thinking of others as downright crazy for their actions- namely, past misdeeds, like shootings, or any of the plethora of other violent, promiscuous, or sinful acts that occur.
But I want to urge us all to remember: we’re all just people underneath it all. Besides Jesus, no one’s life is completely free of some sort of misjudgment along the way.
People who commit sinful acts probably just want to be heard and feel loved, and have not had that chance, to some degree or another. Or, perhaps they’ve been terribly misinformed or brainwashed by an evil force.
We have to try not to jump to conclusions. Remember the cliche: assume means you make an ass out of you and me.
Instead, show some empathy, and lend a listening ear, a kind deed or word, or a gentle touch, if you are ever in a position to do so. Do this instead of judging such troubled people, as we’re not called to judge- only God can do that. Find common ground, like Jones said. Look for what unites you to your brethren, adversaries or not.
Take it from Matthew 7:1-5, one of my favorite:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.