We are different.
We have different skin tones, different facial features. Northerners sound funny to Southerners; Southerners sound funny to Northerners. Some have hair, others (like me) have beautiful scalps, free from follicle interference. Some people like liver; others gag at the smell.
Men and women are different. Sure, there is basic biology: Women have different parts than men, but our differences are beyond our parts. Our bodies produce different chemicals at different levels. Pharmaceutical companies are just waking up to the idea that they need to test some medicines on men and women before prescribing treatments. We are different at a very basic level.
All women are not alike. I know women who would much rather be in the garage fixing a car than in the kitchen fixing a casserole. All men are not alike. I know men who would rather arrange bouquets than hunt Bambi. Before we say, "That's not normal," we must ask, "What is normal? And who gets to define normal? The U.S. Department of Normal?"
Brothers can be different. My brother collects guns. I collect books. Sisters can be different. One of my sisters can cook up a storm; the other sister can calm a storm of preschoolers.
Why? Maybe God knew we needed variety. Maybe God knew we would never learn to love unless we learned to accept each other's differences. Maybe God knew different people would need different gifts to make a difference.
We are the same.
I've never met a human being who didn't long to connect to another person. I've never met a human being who didn't long to be noticed by someone. I've never met a human being who wasn't hungry to be understood.
Every child, even a child who is profoundly disabled, is curious. Put six children with different skin tones in a room, and they explore together. They learn together. They discover together.
I've never known a human being who missed out on pain. We hurt. We grieve. Even the man who is mute expresses his pain with a silent cry. Pain is a universal language.
Brothers and sisters can be the same. My brother and I have the same upper sinuses that cause disgusting sounds when we wake up in the morning. Since I'm the youngest, it's frightening to see my future when I see my brother.
Why? We are the same because we are all made in God's image. God said, "Let us make man in our own image, male and female." God crafted us all in the same basic design, with just enough difference to keep things interesting. You bear the image of God; so do I. So do people in China, North Korea, Iran, England, Costa Rica, Haiti and California. There is a sacred imprint on our souls that not even sin washes completely away.
How do you love people different than you? Find inside that person what is the same as you. Find the sacred fingerprint of God.
Maybe that's what Jesus meant when he said, "I say to you, love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you."
Find the sacred. Love and do good.
Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church.
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