Culturally Intelligent Communities – Dealing with Differences, A Christian Perspective, Part Two

In my previous blog, I referred to the old phrase: “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.[1]” We talked about what are the essentials for Christians, as well as what the non-essentials might be.

And then I mentioned “Charity.” What is Charity? To review, charity is the old term for love. Here is where we get the command to love one another as he has loved us. It does not say love one another if they agree with you. Or if they look like you. Or if they have the same religion!children-2857263_1280 corrected

As Christians, we are called to love one another, but also to love our neighbor. Sometimes it is clear we are to love fellow believers. But Jesus made it clear in his parable that we often call the “Good Samaritan,” that we are to love others, even if they are different from us.

 If you look carefully at this story found in Luke 10:25-37, there are some points to note:

  • The scribe asking the questions assumed two things:
    • That being a part of the “kingdom of God” meant being Jewish (both ethnically and in obedience to the Law);
    • That loving our neighbor meant loving our fellow people of God.
  • Jesus did not tell where the stranger was from.
  • The “good guys” (the priest and the Levite) didn’t do the right thing.
  • The “bad guy” did. Why was he the “bad” guy to the “expert in the Law” asking the question? He was a (gasp) despised
  • Jesus asks, “who is the neighbor?” but doesn’t give the guy who got beat up as one of the options. Jesus calls us to BE a good neighbor. And he calls us to do this across good-samaritan-1037334_1280cultures, to reach out to those who are different from us.[2]

We must look around us. To whom should we be a neighbor? We must look within ourselves and ask, who are we called to be a neighbor to but we find it a challenge? We don’t want to be a neighbor to that person! Who is that? Prayerfully ask God to show you.

 That does not mean we have to agree. There is a lot of diversity in this world. A lot. I do not agree with my husband sometimes. (Another gasp!) But I still choose to love him. We all can learn to agree to disagree. (See my blog on agreeing to disagree and a Christian perspective on dealing with differences, part one)

Now, as Christians, where is the line for agreeing to disagree? Go back to the question of essentials. Look for areas of agreement, recognize those things in which we agree, and prayerfully discern what are not essentials that we can chose to disagree and let go of the argument.

That is how we agree to disagree and still respect and love one another with dignity.

 

 [1] Ross, Mark. “Often attributed to great theologians such as Augustine, it comes from an otherwise undistinguished German Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century, Rupertus Meldenius.” For more information, see this site.

[2] For more explanation of this parable, see David I. Smith’s Learning from the Stranger: Christian faith and cultural diversity. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Culturally Intelligent Communities – Dealing with Differences – Agreeing to Disagree

When do we strive for unity? And when do we need to agree to disagree?

Because we are diverse, and because unity is different parts being combined into a unified whole (see the March 9 blog on Unity), we have a choice.

  • Do we just conduct our lives living as separate people, not connecting, not living in community where we care for one another and really communicate?disagree-1099579_1280

Or

  • Do we choose to live in community, striving for a unity in the midst of diverse people?

If we do not choose to live in community, by default, we choose to live as individuals all doing our own thing.

The challenge, however, is that as soon as we choose to be in community, there will be diversity, whether of race, nationality, religion, opinions about politics or gender, and generations.

When I got married, there was a choice to start our family, a new community. Right from the start, two people living together with different opinions. Yes, we were the same race, same religion, same generation. But we were two different people. Different personalities (extrovert vs introvert). Different family upbringing (somewhat peaceful vs sparks flying often). Different birth order (#2 of 4 vs #5 of 5). Different regional backgrounds (suburb vs farm/small town). This impacted how we related to one another. And there were indeed disagreements for things as basic as what time should we arrive at church.argument-238529_1280

If this is just two people, what happens when you add more people? The more people you add to the community, the more likelihood of differences showing up. Diversity is inevitable. Thus, living in community is messy.

In the Bible, there is a verse that says, “Without oxen, the stable stays clean.” (NLT) If you don’t have oxen in your stables, there will be no dung. If you don’t have people, you don’t have the messiness of life. But we can’t live that way, without people.

We must make a choice to live in community, to be with people. And to be with people calls us to aim for unity within the diversity. With the messiness in a diverse group of people comes the need to learn the art of compromise, learning to find a middle ground. But what if we have completely different ideas or opinions on something? We must learn to agree to disagree.

How does one do that?

  • First, remind yourself:
    • that the other person is a fellow human, deserving respect and dignity and kindness, even if they disagree with you!
    • that often people have a lot in common even amid diversity. Ask yourself, what do you have in common with this person? Sometimes people are heading toward the same goal but with different means.
  • Secondly, get some perspective. Realize that unless it is a life and death situation, who wins an argument will not be important 10 years from now. No one will remember.
  • Thirdly, let it go. It won’t help you nor the other person to come out on top. If you are arguing about religion or football teams, trying to change the other person’s opinion will do no good. For them or for you.

Share opinions. Don’t be afraid of discussing differences. But respect one another in the process. And agree in the end to disagree.handshake-4040911_1280