Who are your friends at church? If you're like me (and most people), your friends are people like you. If you're single, most of your friends are single. If you're a new mom, you may have many friends who are also new moms. If you're just out of college, you may gravitate toward people in the same stage of life.
But I would wager that your church is not filled with people just like you. In fact, there are most likely many in your church who are different from you in many ways. They may be significantly different, or just slightly different.
In the last several weeks, I've referenced the Biblical idea that we in the church are all necessary parts of one body. The following passage demonstrates how each individual person in the body plays a vital role in making up the whole:
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the hand should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts if the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor...But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. I Corinthians 12: 14-26
I love the idea that God has arranged us all in the body as he chose. We can be certain that he did so carefully, in love, with our gifts and shortcomings in mind. He has arranged us so that we can function well, benefit each other and glorify him. I'm so glad that this passage is in the Bible because sometimes church and its people feel so arbitrary. As in, "How in the world did this bunch [me included] end up together?" I have found myself at times, when dealing with someone different than I, thinking, "If only this person could be more like me, this would go much better." Has that ever happened to you?
Let's think about some of the things that make us different in church. We are just starting lives on our own, or have been working for decades; we are college-educated or less, or even much more; we are native English-speakers or English language learners; married or single; parents of babies or parents of grown-ups; new believers or mature; white collar professionals or blue-collar workers; Southerners, Northerners, Mid-Westerners; grieving and struggling or rejoicing and resting. So many aspects of our lives could easily divide us and keep us from each other.
How do you try to step out from always being around people who are pretty much like you? Or do you? Do you need a gentle reminder that all of the people in your church are there by God's design, that you need them, and that they need you?
Being around people like us is so easy, isn't it? We like each other and we have things to talk about. Being around people unlike us is hard. There are barriers. Sometimes we don't understand each other. It can feel awkward, and sometimes we just want to get away, back to somewhere we feel safe.
I want to encourage us to be brave and get to know those in our churches who are not like us. We need each other; it goes far beyond just a matter of liking each other. Married guys, the single men need you to hang with them. Single women, the married ladies need to know you and all you bring to the church. Older believers, the young people need you to walk with them as they grow and find their way. Busy professionals, you need the stay-at-home mom and the student. We are all necessary, chosen by the God of the universe, put here at this time for a purpose. Doesn't that make you want to get to know somebody?!
Think of all that unites us. First, we belong to Christ. We are his people, his sheep, all dependent on him. We are all needy; not one of us has it all together, despite any appearances to the contrary. I sometimes find it refreshing to meet someone who hasn't got it together even on the outside, because it really reminds me of our true condition outside of Christ and his grace. We are all sons and daughters of Adam, born under the curse. And we are all sons and daughters of God, given the Spirit of sonship and all the full rights of natural-born children.
...for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith...There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3: 26, 28-29
All the parts of the body are necessary, important, and deserving of honor. We can love the church as we learn to know and love all its parts - the ones we naturally want to know, and those that we are more likely to ignore.
This is the 27th part in a series. Go here to read the series from the beginning. Go here to read over 700 other 31 Day series on all kinds of topics.