Basically, to the extent that I accept the work of the cross as my invitation to participate in the self-giving intimacy of the Trinity, I must be prepared to embrace the self-giving intimacy with the “other.” To partake in the sacrificial love of the Trinity is to participate in sacrificial love with all others, not just the ones who are part of my homogenous Christian group.1
When I was young, I was a Hard Rock fan. “Disco sucks!” was the motto that those of my crowd shouted (though secretly I liked any kind of music, but didn’t dare say it out loud). We liked our music, and we didn’t like anyone who thought differently. Kiss, AC/DC, Aerosmith, and Def Leppard were some of the bands we thrived on.
How is it that music can be so divisive? Music is supposed to be universal, right? Music is supposed to bring all people together in the one universal language. In a time when so many things are dividing us, shouldn’t music be something we can all appreciate, no matter the style?
I’m currently reading Disunity in Christ, which talks about the divisions within divisions in the Body of Christ and why it needs to change. We are all born of the same Spirit, living in the same Kingdom of God, and worshipping the same God. How is it that we are so vehemently (violently, in some cases) at odds with one another? Is it any wonder that people are turned off by the thought of becoming part of our faith?
The studies in this book point to the conclusion that we like to be with people who think, act and look like us. It also brought out an important point about relationships with people who are not like us: if we intentionally spend time with them, we will become more comfortable with any differences we may have. When we open ourselves to relationships with people who think, act and look differently, we will naturally become more familiar with those differences and be more comfortable around them.
In my youth, had I developed the courage to hang out with those who like Disco music, I would likely have developed friendships with them, despite our different “favorite” musical styles. We could have possibly come to appreciate the diversity, and even overlap, in the musical world at the time.
How can we develop the courage to hang out with people who have different beliefs and faith practices than us? We can start by talking with people who are not like us in some way—as if there were any real differences between us to begin with. After all, the “other” may be in the similar position of not being comfortable with our culture or worship. In fact, maybe that can be the common denominator between us that starts the conversation.
The first and biggest step is always saying “Hello.” This is less about what words to say than it is about why to say them. If we want a different world in which true diversity is valued, then we must want a world in which people—including me and you—have courage to simply get to know the other. Everyone will eventually find themselves in a situation that offers opportunity to begin this process of removing the discomfort—even fear—between different groups. How will we respond in that moment? Will we keep walking to avoid the initial discomfort, or will we stop and say, “Hello?”
Perhaps, if we do stop, we will find out that “Disco doesn’t suck.” We may find ourselves in the midst of a kairos moment (a moment of the Spirit’s moving, a defining moment) that will forever change our lives.
1 Christena Cleveland, Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart, 2013, Intervarsity Press, p.35.