The third descriptor for our Transforming Community value is:
We live in divided societies, we live in a divided world.
Of course, not all divisions are negative – we live in different families and people group together because of different shared personal interests, like sports teams, politics or stamp collecting. When we have something in common, we find it relatively easy to group together.
However, those differences can also keep us apart.
It is easy to react to or pull away from people for the most superficial of reasons: they don’t look like me, they don’t talk like me, they don’t dress like me, they don’t think like me. We can find it so hard to get past first impressions and preconceptions. Somehow it is a lot easier to keep our distance from people rather than make the effort to get to know them.
And yet each person, no matter how they might seem to us, is a dearly loved daughter or son of God – unique and created in His image.
In his book The Shack, Wm Paul Young frequently has Papa say, “I am especially fond of …” followed by the name of whoever is the subject of conversation at that moment. Papa, God the Father, is especially fond of all of his children.
This fondness of God for his children has nothing to do with what they are like and everything to do with who He is. God is love.
How do we get anywhere near this place? How do we get anywhere near to simply being welcoming to everyone and anyone? God’s advice to Samuel in the Old Testament is just as relevant to us today as it was back then:
‘Do not look on his appearance … For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’1 Sam. 16:7
Our heart is to resist the temptation to judge on appearance or with any other prejudice. We want to be those who truly welcome people whoever they are, and wherever they are on their journey of life and their journey of faith.
Whilst it is our earnest hope that each person comes to know their heavenly Father through Jesus Christ, our acceptance of them is not conditional on this.
Lord, thank you that you are especially fond of all your children. Give us eyes to see others as you see them. Give us open hearts and a willingness to welcome and accept every person. Help us to allow the love and acceptance we experience from you to overflow to all those we meet.