The Blessings of Diversity

Photo by Rod Schall (www.camera-crafts.com/ComOfChrist.htm)

Photo by Rod Schall (www.camera-crafts.com/ComOfChrist.htm)

Re-blogged from: Connect-Engage-Inspire

BY BARBARA HOWARD, Independence, Missouri, USA

In 1946 I attended General Conference, now, appropriately called World Conference. Few non-Caucasians were at the week-long event. French Polynesia was represented, and delegates came from the British Isles, Germany, Norway, and Netherlands. The Auditorium Chamber held park benches because the building’s interior was not complete.

Next month, when the 2013 World Conference meets, more than 50 countries will be represented. The assembly will be a rainbow of diversity. We are blessed to be part of such a rich community of people and nations.

Our cultural and ethnic differences are visible to us, but we also are diverse in theological perspectives, social customs, and beliefs. How wonderful that we are so different!

At World Conference we will sing selections that will be included in the new multilingual hymnal, Community of Christ Sings (available in October). As usual, translators will help Conference participants communicate in an array of languages. In the future, perhaps we will gather in a country where those who speak English will be in the minority.

God keeps nudging us toward unity, toward loving each other in our differences. Sometimes, however, we are willing to accept a person who is from a different nation and speaks a different language more easily than we can accept a person who shares a different point of view on a legislative issue.

Naomi Shihab Nye has written about two young people—a Muslim and a Jew. In a poem, “Trenches and Moats and Mounds of Dirt,” she describes an encounter between them:

“Let’s change places,” the teenager said.

“For a week, I’ll be you, and you be me.”

Knowing if they did, they would never fight again.

Listen to them.

It may be an impossible ideal to become another person. But to listen to others without immediately closing them off because of their ideas, to deeply listen to them, is the meaning of love. Each person comes from a different background, even in the same family. One only has to have a family reunion to realize how varied the memory of the same event can be.

When we struggle with issues, the greatest gift we can give others is to listen in love, to hear their feelings, to try to understand the reasons for their feelings. When we are able to open our hearts to others, we become an authentic community of compassion and love.

God demonstrated divine love in Christ Jesus, who was God in human form. The life of Jesus affirms the power of incarnational love. “For God is in Christ reconciling the world” is the foundation for our faith. May we look to Christ as the model for our discipleship as we approach World Conference.

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