We are all different. In the way we look, the way we talk, the way we think. This is especially clear in Nuremberg where we are spending the summer. Last week we attended an African Festival that packed the park. African music echoed through the trees; strange fragrances drifted on the breeze; multiple ethnicities melted into the crowd. The major cities of the world are cosmopolitan. More than 90 languages are spoken in Houston. In Dallas, every ethnicity is a minority, including Anglo.
Last week, I left my wife in the lobby of the theater while I went off to secure a video rental. When I returned she had struck up a conversation with a young man with several days growth of beard. He was from Algiers, working as a chef at a Cuban restaurant in Nuremberg. Later, when traveling on the bus trying to find the Ikea store, we encountered a helpful woman who led us to our destination. She spoke fluent English, lives one month of the year in Nuremberg and the rest in India, though she recently spent three months in China.
God must like difference and diversity. There is so much of it. If we all looked alike, spoke alike and thought alike, it would be a boring and shallow world. God has splashed His creation with rich and wondrous diversity, from the fish of the sea and the stars in the heavens to the people of the earth.
Why is it, then, that we are so prone to make other people conform to our own way of life? Why do we feel it necessary to argue until others adopt our point of view? Why do we want them to dress like us, look like us and talk like us? What should a Christian look like?
It seems to me that most Christians think other Christians should look like they look. But they don’t. I am reminded of a visit I made several years ago to the Harley Davidson Factory in Kansas City. A young man stood up to address the group and introduced himself as a disciple of Jesus Christ disguised as an executive at Harley Davidson. Disciples of Jesus Christ come disguised in the clothing and customs of every culture on the globe.
Like our 21st century world, first century Rome was an empire of wide cultural diversity. Writing to Christians who lived in this diverse cultural context, the Apostle Paul gave these instructions: “The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.” And “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone.”
Paul’s instructions for living in a diverse world have two primary threads. First, be willing to accept different customs and cultures without judging them. Second, live out your faith in Christ so that you are consistent with your conscience and seek the best interest of others.