Fear of Differences

In the wake of the Orlando, Florida shooting just over 2 weeks ago and more recently the attacks on Istanbul’s Atatürk international airport, I've had many thoughts running through my head about hate and prejudice... I've also had God take some hard jabs at my own heart and failings as a human being. No, I'm not a terrorist or the person responsible for a mass shooting. But I have not loved the unloveable the way Jesus wants me to. And I have most certainly judged when I should have given grace.

Hate and prejudice are rampant in the world--regardless of nationality, gender, religion, or status. Those emotions and judgements may present themselves in different ways, making some acts of hatred more extreme, more obvious--but hate is always there, hiding in the less obvious words and deeds.

Hate is there, hiding in the hearts of many. But what causes this prevailing hatred?

"The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear." - Gandhi

Most of us would not easily recognize that fear is at the root of our hate, our disdain, our judgement, and our unwillingness to love. But as Christians, we are called to love. Not just the people we like, but even our enemies. To ever hope to love people at that depth requires that we look inward.

We must examine our beliefs and our fears in order to push past the barriers that keep us from loving other people well. One of those barriers is a fear of differences.

This underlying fear of people who look different, act different, believe different, and are different, causes us to feel threatened.

In our North American culture, the main reason we feel threatened by diversity is due to insecurity.

We are insecure because we are not firm in our beliefs. We think that anyone with a differing opinion threatens our beliefs instead of seeing the opportunity for learning, growth, and discussion. If you know what you believe and you can stand firm in your beliefs, you are free to love others with different viewpoints without feeling like your beliefs are being threatened or that you have to convince the other person that they are wrong.

We are insecure because we have a scarcity mindset. This type of thinking is the belief that there's only one piece of pie and the more you share, the less you get for yourself. Instead of realizing that more people means more pies (and different people means different pies), we fight for our share and push others aside in order to get what we think we deserve. Switching to an abundance mindset frees us up to be generous in every way, knowing that there's always more.

We are insecure because we doubt ourselves. We judge other people who do things differently because it makes us doubt the way we do things. As women and mothers, this is especially true. Jealousy and gossip stem from our insecurity. Instead of accepting each other as different, unique individuals with different strengths, weaknesses, and needs, we see each other as threats. We need to start treating each other like daughters of Christ in a shared sisterhood of love and support.

But because of all of this insecurity, we have filled our communities, our cities, our countries with hate.

Hate never wins.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” - Martin Luther King Jr.

I can't change the fact that there are individuals and organizations in the world whose mission is to pass judgement on those that they fear and hate. But I can change myself. I can love. I can give grace. I can show mercy. I can be a light.

As Christians, we are God's ambassadors.

Our mission on earth is to show people the love of Jesus, who died on the cross for every single person. We need to start by showing love to each other as Christians. Put aside the petty differences and love each other. If we can't do that, how can we begin to spread that kind of love to the rest of the world who needs it so desperately?

Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.

Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.

- 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (The Message; emphasis mine)

Don't let your fear of differences cause you to miss out on loving others and being a light in this world.