When Jesus told His disciples to love one another, he did not make this command conditional upon how much those others agree with us. The joy and power of the church has always crossed opinion boundaries as well as geographic and generational ones. The best future of the church depends on us continuing this excellent trend.
An issue of Psychology Today reports results from multi-University study on best practices for positive results when people with differing views interact.
Authors Robert Lupton and Judd Thornton measured continued participation of people in two groups: 1) where a variety of opinions were expressed and respected, vs. 2) where opinions were respected only when they agreed with the consensus of the group. Results showed that diversity attracted participation while insistence on conformity made continued participation less likely.
One of the United Church of Christ’s marketing themes is expressed in a sign that challenges: “Be the Church” followed by the prescriptions: Protect the environment. Care for the poor. Embrace diversity. Reject racism. Forgive often. Love God. Fight for the powerless. Share earthly and spiritual resources. Enjoy this life.
Jesus celebrated diversity with unapologetic enthusiasm, even when he was criticized for it. He did not avoid those who were different (as was customary in his day). Instead, he mingled with, welcomed, taught, and made whole — people of every race, background, skin color, gender, physical size, etc. Jesus took no part in the hatred-producing self-exalting exclusion that is a natural, though evil, tendency among human beings.
As we strive to obey Jesus’ command: let’s celebrate diversity as he did — to the best of our ability.
Pastor Mike Krewson