“this is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters..dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 john 3:16, 18
this past saturday night at the refuge my friend & teammate in the refuge nuttiness, karl wheeler, and i facilitated part 2 of a conversation centered on what it means to foster unity, not uniformity, in christian community and how church is a zoo.
holding the space for this kind of diversity is most definitely easier said than done.
we centered our conversation on reminding everyone that inclusion means inclusion, not just for a bunch of people who believe the same things, even if they are on the left instead of the right. it means that we somehow have to create room for all of our differences–all the way to the left in politics and theology and all the way to the right. we have to find a way to have love bind us all together in perfect unity (colossians 3:14) instead of just loving our neighbors who think like us, talk like us, live like us, believe like us.
in this conversation, we fleshed out three movements to consider when it comes to our differences: tolerating, valuing, and embracing.
here’s a quick summary:
tolerating – no one likes to just be “tolerated’ but honestly, many of us don’t even get to this spot when it comes to our differences. we stop before here and don’t even try. i also think that for the most part, this is what we do with our differences–we tolerate them. we keep the other person at a distance. we are annoyed by their beliefs. we feel a lot of judgement and really wish they were different. there’s definitely a wall between us and our hearts are protected from one another.
valuing – this is the next step in deepening relationship across differences. when we value each other, we see the good in one another and call it out. we say ‘i want to hear more from you”, “we need your voice”, “i care about what you have to say.” we start to see good in each other that we didn’t see when we were blinded by only tolerating. we see hearts instead of agendas.
embracing – this does not mean that we have to agree, but it looks like really accepting and loving one another just as they are. the #1 quality of this seems to be loving each other without any expectations of anything being different. there’s a comfort level, a release of-trying-to-convince-in-any-way-shape-or-form, and a freedom of just being who we are with each other.
oh i was so convicted in all kinds of good but challenging ways. i want to move far, far beyond just tolerating others different from me, i want to learn to value and embrace them in ways that set us both free.
free to be just who we are. free to believe differently from the person next to us and still be okay. free to love without judgment.
there were also a few other things that struck me that people shared:
- we can’t expect ourselves to move from tolerating to embracing in a flash. it’s takes a long time to build relationship, and really that’s the only way to get from one to another.
- even though tolerating isn’t enough, it is a place to start. we can’t ever get to valuing or embracing if we can’t stand to sit next to someone and listen to them.
- the sooner we can get to valuing, the better because this is the beginning of love. this comes mainly through conversation, connection, and time spent in honest relationship.
- one of my dear hurting friends pulled me aside afterward and shared a profound truth in all of this that i’ll remember for a long time. he said “kathy, the person i can’t seem to tolerate is myself.” yeah, these things apply to our relationship with ourselves, too!
overall, i was reminded in these past few weeks that the most critical ingredient in all of this is humility.
oh, that hard & beautiful word, the thing that Jesus seemed to call us to over and over again. the thing that’s easy to talk about and hard to do. soft, open hearts and sacrificial love are the only way to ever get to embracing. we will have to lay our guns and agendas and theological arguments down in order to love the way Jesus loved. as the 1 john scripture says, we will have to show our love not through our words but through our actions.
God, show us how to become valuing & embracing people–free, loving, humble, willing to honor and respect our differences, people who trust you enough to let go of needing to convince or judge or dismiss. people who love through actions, not words.