Think about your circle of friends for a second.
Who are the people in your apartment building? Or the people who live on your street? Or the people in your Compass Group?
How many of them are a generation older or younger than you? Are they all “middle class”? Does anyone have an accent or a different skin color?
Here’s an even bigger question…
Do you think it matters? Spiritually, does it even matter if everyone we interact with looks like us? After all, isn’t loving Jesus really what matters?
Sure, it’s natural to develop friendships with people we have lots in common with, but God invites us to be part of something supernatural. His family is full of diversity and the ability to experience unity despite our differences.
Diversity should matter to you. So here are three ways spending time with different people changes us for the better.
1. Diversity broadens our understanding of God.
Our understanding of God expands when we see Him through others’ perspectives. We tend to think of God in the context we have been raised and how we have encountered Him. But each of us has a unique story of how God has revealed Himself in our lives, and we get a fuller picture of who God is when we share our stories.
God made humankind to reflect His image, and we do that best when we do it together. There is no doubt God cares about race because He created us with differing characteristics and skin tones on purpose. He meticulously formed us to be perfect, exactly who He wanted us to be without mistake. And He gives us the gift of wisdom through multigenerational interactions, allowing the older to teach the younger and vice versa.
2. Diversity deepens our compassion for others.
It is next to impossible to understand someone else’s perspective unless we spend some time in their shoes. Seeing a story in a book or on a screen is great, but they pale in comparison to experiencing the struggle of an actual friend.
We tend to feel sorry for people we don’t know. But when the person struggling is someone we do know, the problem becomes real to us. Pity changes to compassion, and we’re moved to action.
If we are serious about Jesus’ command to love as He does, we have to be willing to pursue our brothers and sisters the way He did. When we love people, we spend time with them. We can do a lot of good in the world from afar, but if we never take the time to love one another, we miss what life is all about.
3. Diversity helps us make God accessible to everyone.
Jesus tells us to make disciples of all nations. When we’re willing to get uncomfortable and spend time with people who don’t believe the things we do, we begin to understand their gods and their objections to the Gospel.
God loves the world, and we should too. You are where you are for a reason. God cared so much about the neighbors who are atheists that He put them next door to you. God cared so much about the Muslim family, He put your kids in school together.
You are where you are for a reason.
Apathy or ignorance isn’t a valid excuse not to pursue or care for those around us. Love compels us to figure out how to make God accessible to everyone because a life following Jesus is the best life we can possibly live.
Plenty of people around us could expand our capacity to talk about our faith. We just have to reach out and ask. We are less likely to make assumptions about someone when we know them, and we are less likely to fear people who are different when we’re willing to hear their stories.
To pursue unity is to build relationships with a variety of people rather than a comfortable few. We can stay in our safe cliques, or we can develop meaningful friendships with people who aren’t like us. If we try the latter, we might find new paths of healing and unity by focusing on the faith we share, rather than being afraid of the things that make us different.