Let me tell you about my friend Claire. She’s a senior in high school at Jenks in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She is the co-captain of her Pom squad. She loves Britney Spears and often refers to the pop singer as her role model. She’s blonde. She’s loud. She’s crazy. She once took two hundred pictures of herself on my iPhone in less than 3 minutes.
Claire and I are VERY different people. She was my camper in a summer leadership development program a couple of summers ago. We met when she was a vibrant 16 and I was a mature (or so I liked to believe) 20. When I first met Claire, I was terrified of her. She showed up to camp in a whirlwind of blonde hair, energy, and giggles. I was immediately overwhelmed by her and doubtful that we would be able to connect because the two of us seemed so different.
At the program’s orientation that first day, I sat at the front with the other leaders and noticed Claire and some of her friends sitting and talking with a large group of boys. I leaned over to one of my friends and whispered, “Great, my campers are already flirting with boys.” I thought I was in for a long two weeks filled with diva campers that I would struggle to relate to.
Much to my surprise, Claire and I ended up becoming great pals. She became one of the campers I had the most natural connection with. Despite all of our outward differences (of which there are still many), our hearts were surprisingly similar.
This is one of many examples from my life where I made a split-second judgement about who a person was. Unfortunately, we all do this a lot. Sitting in our classes or walking down the streets, our brains have been trained to observe, critique, and judge details of practically every person we see.
That girl’s in a Sorority. That guy’s cute. That guy’s nerdy. That girl’s smart. That guy’s annoying. That girl’s so different from me and we could never be friends. Our minds are so good at noticing difference that we all make these judgements every day, without even thinking about it.
These judgements do a good job of diving the kingdom. This practice teaches us to evaluate others on an earthly, superficial level and keeps us from seeing each other as the Lord sees us. 1 Samuel 16:7b says, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
When we become followers of Christ, He transforms every part of us, making us more like Him. That includes our eyes. We need to learn to see others with these new eyes that the Lord has given us, eyes that see not like man sees, but as God sees. Along the way, we’ll probably discover that the perceived differences we believed in during the beginnings of our relationships are non-existent or unimportant.
As I’ve mentioned, Claire and I are very different in many of the ways that the world judges things. Yet, we have an earnest and a true connection that comes from similarities in our spirit, not similarities found in things of this earth. Let’s learn to look first for those similarities of soul, and let everything else figure itself out.
Had I let my first impression of Claire stick with me and continued to see her as the crazy diva I initially thought she was, I would have missed out on a really important friendship. Claire often encourages me and I like to think that I encourage her. Jesus gave us a friendship that benefits both of us, teaches us new things, and draws us closer to Christ. The Lord uses our differences for our good and through my mentorship of Claire, we both learn to see things from different perspectives than we normally do.
We need to learn to appreciate difference, rather than judge it. God has made us into a diverse community. We are each unique with something special to offer those around us. Let’s not forget the comparison of the Church to the body of Christ. I am a unique and special part of the body. I best serve God by acting out the role He has specifically given me. Claire best serves God by acting out the role He has given her.
Our differences are part of the plan that God designed, so there’s no reason to be afraid of them or to judge them. Rather, we need to learn to embrace our differences and celebrate the diversity of the body of Christ. It’s exciting that God designed me and Claire and everyone around us in such unique and different ways! Because God is creative and He displays that creativity in the diversity of His kingdom.