For the past two weeks I have been writing about approaching differences relationally as a way to begin to chip away at the divisions we seem to be experiencing in so many areas. When I read the new book, Unified, by Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy, it spurred me on with a framework to write about that has been something I had been mulling over for some time.
If you have been with me since the beginning of this series (April 18), you have read more about my personal background that shaped my experiences and value for seeing the individual before I see the group.
Today I want to share a few more quotes from the book and some final thoughts as I bring this series to a close. You see I hadn’t planned to write a series, but I feel passionately about relationships and how we (especially as believers) handle them.
The old adage about sticks and stones and words not hurting us isn’t quite what happens most of the time. Words matter. They also can and do hurt. I think they hurt the most when those words do not match the actions of the one who speaks them.
Research shows when words and actions don’t match, we tend to believe the actions because they most often reveal what is in our hearts and happen almost automatically.
As I have watched the widening gap between so many of us increase on individual, organizational, and national levels, some have put forth programs and workshops to try to change the trajectory we are on. But I am not sure I see many results from them. That’s why Tim Scott’s next quote resonated so much with me:
“If we really want to make a difference, let’s have a conversation – just you and me. Let’s not talk about the weight of the world or the weight of the past, but let’s talk about where we are right now. Let’s start with a clean slate; let’s assume the best of each other and expect the best of each other. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt. Let’s build our rapport and establish credibility and trust with each other, and then we can share what we’ve learned, and share our victories with others who can then do the same.”
One reason the book’s message resonates is because it matches what the Lord has already outlined we are to be like in the world anyway. Somehow even as Christians we have too often failed in that area. Too often the body of Christ operates in silos based on denomination, some aspect of doctrine, tradition, or ethnicity. Those differences are real, but I think we have forgotten that we also have a significant core group of beliefs that we all agree with and that’s a great place to start.
We saw that demonstrated in Charleston, SC, with the tragedy at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The members of the body welcomed a stranger into their midst who was different from them in more ways than they knew. When he opened fire in his murderous shooting rampage as well as afterward, they forgave in ways that stand as a memorial and testament to the character of the church and the city of Charlestown. It should have provoked us all.
The people of that church and city evidenced what was inside them in their hearts, spirits, and character before and after this tragedy.
If we continue to focus on all the ways we are different, stay polarized and focus on our anger, resentment, and fear, nothing will change and what comes up in a crisis will look very different than Charleston’s example.
One of my favorite quotes from Unified is this one:
“When you begin to look at people as individuals, when you listen to what they say and seek to understand where they’re coming from, you begin to realize we’re all different from the rest.”
God created each one of us as a “one-of-a-kind” individual. Perhaps He knew it would require us to depend on Him to relate to and love one another as a result.
I love you best when I get to know you first. That means commitment and intentionality. It means realizing for as much as I may think I know about you or anyone, there is far more that I don’t know – even if I have known you for some time.
Let me close with this quote written by Trey Gowdy:
“We live in a world that prioritizes diversity over unity, but let’s stop for a moment to recognize that these terms are not mutually exclusive. We can be unified within our diversity. We can allow our diversity to bring wisdom, texture, and depth to our unity. We have so much in common, and I don’t know why we don’t spend at least as much time talking about our commonality as we do our differences.”
And this one by Tim Scott:
“True friendship is born out of unconditional love and acceptance. The Bible is very clear that love is not simply an emotion; it is deliberate commitment. Love and acceptance are not situational. They’re not contingent. They are consistent. I’m very optimistic about our future, but if we’re going to change the world, it’s going to happen one relationship at a time. It’s going to happen by all of us enlarging our comfort zones to make room for unlikely friendships – friendships with people who, at first glance, it may appear we have little in common with. But just as love is unconditional, it is also intentional. We must decide to look beyond our differences to build bridges of commonality. Pursuing unlikely friendships will require us to do things that seem uncomfortable at first. But what’s hard gets easier, and if we’ll do the hard things first, we will soon reap the benefits.”
Here’s to doing the hard things first!