It's another evidence of the cultural word play so prominent in main-stream media today. The excellent word diversity has been co-opted by our politically correct social mania to actually mean less than the word implies. The traditional linguists over at Merriam-Webster think diversity is the condition of having or being composed of different elements. You know, as in variety. The hip Urban Dictionary reflects a more contemporary understanding. Diversity in their volume is anyone other than a white guy. And, that's just a glimpse of the twists and turns about diversity these days. Now, diversity is the fix-it word to correct all the racial and gender grievances of broken people living in a broken world. The truth is, genuine diversity is bigger than the color of our skin or the sexual identity given to us at birth. We humans are a diverse lot.
This diversity is an admixture of unique components that make us different. Physical characteristics are perhaps the most obvious, the ones we observe with greater clarity. We could stop right there in the study of human variety because appearance is enough to distinguish each of us from everyone else. Our differences, however, are delineated much deeper that how we look. I mean, beauty's only skin deep, yeah, yeah, yeah. Underneath is the treasure of human thought and behavior. You know, personality types, geographical characteristics, the stamping of origin, our mannerisms, habits, the ways we express ourselves, introverts and extroverts, morning and night people, the loud and the quiet, type A's and type B's, and a thick catalog of other specifics. We're certainly different because God intended it that way. When the ingredients of life are distributed in the womb some of us get more of one particular trait and less of another. At times that rich diversity is troublesome. Us egocentric humans prefer to handle life our way and deal with people like us for the most part. It's true, birds of a feather do flock together if you know what I mean.
At times, however, placement systems beyond our control situate us with oddly different people. They add an interesting dynamic to our lives, often challenging, just as often perplexing. And, the question today, in a broad and generic sense, is how we are supposed to respond to these difficult people? Let's go big picture today---
1. Recognize the image of God in everyone.
Some people in my life resemble the Three Stooges more than what I think about God. Or, perhaps Jadis on The Walking Dead, or Kramer on Seinfeld, or Phoebe Buffay on Friends. Even they were created in the image of God. This means we should always identify the miraculous creative genius of every human and should treat them with some deference. About our treatment of others, James wrote. "But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so" (James 3: 8-10, ESV). Yes, it was instruction about how we talk to or about people. But, the larger picture here is that everyone is created in God's image and is worthy of our best response, no matter the difficulty they may contribute to our lives.
2. Live under the dominion of the Golden Rule when responding to others.
Early in life our dear mother taught us the Golden Rule. Only later in life did I discover the biblical origin of this way to treat others. Jesus said it clearly, "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7: 12, ESV). It's considered old hat in this culture, to be considerate of others as you wish they would be considerate of you. But, it works, and is redemptive behavior when responding to the difficult people in our lives.
3. Be a person of grace in words and actions.
Paul wrote some profound advice to the recipients of his letters. To the Colossians he advised, "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person" (Colossians 4:6, ESV). Dear old John, the Apostle who loved Jesus, moved such counsel beyond our speech. He clarified, "Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18, ESV). Surely the language of grace should extend to our actions and responses as well.
C.S. Lewis said, “It is a serious thing . . . to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship.” These biblical truths give us some powerful guidance in responding to the difficult people we encounter in life. We should follow them.
And, besides, the most difficult people in our circle of influence may be reading this blog right now trying to figure out how they should respond to us!
More specifics this week.