When you meet someone you’ve never met before, which do you notice first: your differences or your similarities? Recently, while at camp, I sat with a group of cabin leaders and a conversation developed that made it clear to me their generation views the older generation as one that notices differences before similarities.
As I began to study and reflect on this, I realized that even inside the church we are often quick to use labels when looking at people we view as different. Take a moment to consider your own experience. If this is accurate in our personal journeys, the question we must ask is this: Do we need to change? The leaders in that camp cabin want a new generation that chooses to hold to what is similar. It is no longer about race, gender, or the many other ways we view differences, but about our shared experience.
In Genesis, humanity is described as “created in the image of God.” In Romans 3:23, the Apostle Paul gives us a strong picture of humanity’s similarities, stating, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” All. Not just me, not just that guy over there. All.
So, in a church setting, when we refer to people as “sinners,” it must be with the realization we are all sinners who have fallen short.
Gungor in his song, “White Man,” references many demographics that have been seen as different within the church. They may seem different, or even at odds on the outside, but God sees them all the same.
The Bible teaches, that through the cross Jesus paid the penalty for all people’s sins. This is yet another example of a way that all are similar. Consider who Jesus regularly spent time with. He offended the religious leaders of His day because He ate and spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes – people who were “different,” who were outsiders. Yet, Scripture shows that Jesus never referenced anyone with any descriptive term.
At the end of the session with those camp leaders, I pointed out that if we look hard enough we can find as many, if not more, similarities than differences. My pray is that we, as a community, will open our eyes and see people as God does – bound together by our similarities not fractured by our differences.