The Heart is More Important
1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” How much time do we need to become resolved to not get carried away by appearances, preconceptions or prejudices? Not stop at the differences, weaknesses, shortcomings and defects, but rather position ourselves at the foot of the cross and see our neighbor as we are–simply in need of Christ.
How much time does the Holy Spirit need to work in us before we recognize that we are a family in Christ and that we are united by the bond of His blood, His forgiveness and His righteousness? It is true, we cannot look at the heart as He looks at it. However, we can decide not to act based simply on what we see, but become accustomed to looking for the best in others in a healthy manner. Ultimately relying on Him, and trusting His direction, plans and will for His Church.
Ephesians 2:13 says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Another question for us to consider: are we really brought near to one another by the blood of Christ? Frankly, I think the answer is no. We are close to those we choose and want to be close to, but not to others, largely due to our differences, preconceptions and prejudices.
Let us recognize that our cultural differences go beyond our race, ethnicity or country of birth. In reality, there are more differences within us as individuals, whether due to education, social position, religion, personality, political or sports affiliation, past experiences, our upbringing and other factors that affect our conduct and behavior.
We have a hard time accepting the sinner, as he is, and at the same time rejecting sin. One of the biggest challenges in the Christian discipleship experience involves conducting ourselves with tolerance and acceptance, following the example of Jesus. This does not refer to compromising biblical principles and doctrines, but rather to our effort to recognize and respect our cultural differences. It is also important that these differences also enrich us and increase the impact of our ministries to reach more people for the kingdom of God.
Another of our greatest challenges today is also bringing about a generational rapprochement. Cultural differences also exist from one generation to the next. This has resulted in young people in many of our congregations feeling ignored and alienated. We have had a hard time giving youth trust, responsibility and authority in the leadership roles of our churches. Most of the time it is due to intolerance and lack of acceptance towards what may be a different personal preference or tradition.
For this reason, we have committed ourselves in the Southwestern Union to the Growing Together initiative, which we hope will help us break down barriers and produce a real connection to Jesus and to one another. Being close to Jesus and united among ourselves, we will finally be able to impact our communities with the message of salvation.
It is extremely important to understand that individual people have much more in common than their differences. We all have the need for love and affection, the need to belong, the need to participate and contribute. When we learn to look at others like Jesus does we will see fewer differences. We can draw closer and rejoice in our peculiarities, abilities, talents, and above all, in the gifts that the Spirit has granted, so that we may unite in the expansion of the kingdom of God and the culmination of the mission.
By Osvaldo L. Rigacci, Southwestern Union Vice President for Multicultural Ministries