In contemporary, modern American culture, we are more often defined by our differences than what we have in common. This is a very discouraging cultural malady that we have been exposed to and succumbed to. Social media, newspaper articles, online news websites, the evening TV news, everywhere you turn it seems that we’re all being bombarded by reminders of what divides us. In this hyper-sensitive, politically correct culture we live in today, here’s the challenge for us as followers of Jesus. If we want to connect with people and build relationships, then we’ll need to find common ground. We have to find a way to bring people together. Jesus brought together 12 men some of whom were complete opposites in their viewpoints. But they found common ground. You know what I’ve discovered? I’ve found that when I display kindness, speak blessing, show patience, encourage and thank people for their service, I get all that back in return. I get a smile! I get kindness in return. So, I’m a little more conscious to thank the person at the drive-through window at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. I try not to look through people and instead notice them… value them even if they’re different from me… even if we don’t share the same color of skin or we don’t have the same values. I’m a lot more gracious and generous in acknowledging people for their service or their help. It’s not hard to connect with people and lift them up with a kind word or a genuine smile. You and I are the ones who can bring rays of sunshine into people’s lives. You can make someone’s day and cheer them up. You can bless people with a kind word of thanks. You can turn someone’s sadness into gladness when you show a little love and grace and patience. Really, it’s easy to be a messenger of hope!
Despite all the differences we might share – differing opinions, different political parties, different religious backgrounds, different ethnicities, different skin colors, different generations, different tastes in music – all those differences that our modern American culture portrays as irreconcilable, divisive differences – we are to overcome those differences as the people of God, as the Body of Christ.
Paul writes: Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:3-6) That’s a lot of oneness! That’s a lot of commonality! We are one body… under one Spirit… with faith and allegiance to one God. It doesn’t matter what color you are, what opinion you have about gun control or your political views about our current president or the next president, or your likes or dislikes in TV shows or music or hair color or tattoos or whatever our American culture comes up with next. All of those differences are not important in the Church or in the Kingdom of God. We are to be of one mind and one heart, one faith with one message: the message of the love of Jesus, the message of the cross, the message of Christ crucified and risen again. We focus on what unites, not on what divides. And what unites us is our common faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and his Gospel. The Gospel unites us.