In the increasing diversity of our community, we find that relationships all around us take work
In the beginning, when God was making all of everything, God stopped and said it is not good for man to be alone. (Gen. 2:18) From the very beginning God made us in this way, to be together, to be in relationship. We are made to be in relationship, with each other and with God. And, as the story of Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen. 3) shows, just because we are created to be in relationships doesn't mean they are easy.
It is hard being in relationship with others. It takes work, sometimes it is a struggle, and sometimes there is real hurt. Being in relationship is hard.
When we talk of 'falling in love' it is the superficial stuff, the easy stuff, that we are infatuated with. It is not until we really spend time together, get to know our deep differences and struggle together over these differences, that we really find lasting relationships. And it is hard.
The same is true for all relationships. And in the increasing diversity of our community (and world) we find that relationships all around us take work. It is easy to focus on the few most important relationships in our life and take the lazy road for all the others.
It is far easier to say, for instance, that all people of 'that religion' are the same, or all people of 'that nationality' are the same, or all people from 'that political party' are the same. And of course they are not like us, so we don't want to be around them.
It is far easier to see everyone different than ourselves as 'others' and be against them. Lazy. Every nationality, religion, and party is made up of individuals who are just as diverse, complex and interesting as we claim to be. But if I see them as 'others,' set apart or even against 'us,' I don't have to do the hard work of being in relationship with them.
Like I said, lazy.
This is happening far too often in our community now. The hard work of being in relationship with those who are different is being left, and the easy road of demonizing others in broad generalizations is all too common. I wish this was a new thing we were addressing, but even in scripture we are admonished to do the hard work of seeing God's image in others, all others.
'With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.' (James 3:9-10)
I will admit that hard work is tiring. It can be exhausting to build relationships. But hard work always pays off. So let's start with two easy steps to get us working the right direction. When we encounter someone who is different, or with whom we disagree, ask two questions, then build on the answers.
First, why is this person different than I am?
Second, how is this person the same as me?
Honest answers to these can lead us into meaningful relationships with the other. After all, that's what we were made for in the beginning.