Genesis 1: 27 states that God created man and woman in His image. This tells me that we’re all created equal. Interestingly, God designed diversity via skin color and language, as He values creativity and no one person or group of persons is favored over another. James 2 warns us against showing favoritism, as we’re to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Candidly, how do we practically live this command out in Byron Center, one of the least diverse communities in West Michigan? Granted, there’s slight diversity in socio-economic groups, but we lack diversity in any other way. How can we be found faithful in not showing favoritism and how can we fully understand the statement that “we’re all created in His image” when we live so homogeneously? Still further, how can we sincerely and yet intentionally create relationships of any depth and meaning with those who are different from us if “this” is where we live and work and attend school? Assuming you attend one of the local churches, look around your congregation this next week. Flip through your church directory. How reflective is it of what Heaven will look like? Of how God created Earth to look like?
Some of us might respond with, “But my Small Group delivers meals to the homeless in downtown Grand Rapids and we’ve had a couple of conversations with those people.” Still others might say, “I’m cordial to the Muslim/African American/Eastern Indian/Etc. clerk at the gas station.” Do we see these people the same as we see our neighbors? Do we see them as being made in the image of God?
Granted, we can’t help where we’ve been born and as we sit in our predominantly all white, middle class churches, we didn’t select our church based on that fact alone. It just happens because Byron Center is more rural and ….well, what else may have discouraged diversity? Please know, this post isn’t written with the intent to accuse or to make one feel guilty. It is written with the wonderings of “How do we individually and collectively live out the command to see men and women of all colors, beliefs, and ethnicities as created in His image; not showing favoritism, when my interactions are with people who look and live very much like me?” Can I dare ask myself, “What am I doing to increase my understanding of those who are different from me and my family? When I interact with someone different from me, what do I first experience– fear? Curiosity? Anger? Sympathy? Why do I feel the way I do and how can I change that so I feel friendship and warmth?” Evaluate honestly. Then, if you see a mis-match, what’s a possible solution? What might you consider actually doing to change this?
Let us love as Christ loves His church– with authenticity and intentionality. It sounds simple enough until we toss in reality.