How to Love People Who are Different Than You

God intentionally created everyone to be unique. And when we appreciate the uniqueness that we see in others, we truly honor the creative work of God around us. The world is a work of art, full of color and full of diversity.

Nobody looks quite like you look. You’re not one in a million; you’re one in 7 billion! And if you have a problem with people who are different from you, you really have a problem with God. Racism is essentially believing that God should have made everyone else to be just like you.

First Corinthians 15:38-40 says, “God gives everything the kind of body he wants it to have. People, animals, birds, and fish are each made of flesh, but none of them are alike. Everything in the heavens has a body, and so does everything on earth. But each one is very different from all the others” (CEV). That’s intentionality.

Then the Bible says, in Acts 17:26, “From one person God made all nations who live on earth, and he decided when and where every nation would be” (CEV).

We all ultimately descended from two mutual parents, Adam and Eve. Our unity was fractured by sin and its effects, but God created us for oneness. And the church is ultimately the steward of that oneness. Every church should, as much as possible, reflect the diversity of its surrounding community and set the example for the rest of the world in terms of cultivating oneness in diversity.

We talk so much about the brokenness of sin in our lives leaving us all with hurts, habits, and hang-ups. And those hurts affect every relationship in our lives. The obvious ones are with our spouses, our kids, our parents, and our siblings. But that same brokenness is evident when there is prejudice buried deep in our hearts toward people of other races and ethnicities.

Part of the journey toward wholeness and healing is making amends with the people we’ve offended and hurt, and that includes people we’ve pushed away because of racial and ethnic differences.

In other words, recovery isn’t just an issue of overcoming addictions. It’s also an issue of showing love to everyone around us.

And here are four ways to show love to people with whom you have differences.

1 Listen to them. When you listen to people, you’re giving them the ability to speak to you while affirming their dignity.
2 Look at them. When you give people your attention, you’re giving them the most important thing you possess your—time.
3 Learn from them. You can learn from anyone when you ask the right questions and when you are teachable.
4 Laugh with them. Humor is a great equalizer and lowers tension. The words humor and humility come from the same root. The mark of humility is your ability to laugh at yourself.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:18, “Through Christ, God made peace between us and himself, and God gave us the work of telling everyone about the peace we can have with him” (NCV).

When you’ve experienced redemption through Christ, and reconciliation with God and with other people, you can’t help but turn outwardly and be an agent of reconciliation in all of your relationships. And that includes your relationships with people who are simply different from you by God’s creative design.

4 Practical Reasons for Small Groups

Small groups provide the kind of accountability and support we need to recover from our Hurts, Hangups, and Habits; so I want to give you four reasons why they are important to your congregation.

1. Small groups are relational.

You can’t have a conversation with 600 people or 60 people, but you can have a conversation with six people. Generally, when there are more than 10 in a group, people stop talking. It is impossible to learn how to love your neighbor as yourself unless you are involved in a small group of some kind. You don’t need a lot of friends in life, but you do need a few good ones, and you find those solid, supportive friendships in small groups.

Sometimes I hear people say they don’t want their church to grow larger because, if it does, they won’t know everybody in the congregation. Based on that mindset, a church shouldn’t grow beyond about 60 people. The average person knows 67 people.

Small groups allow you to know people, regardless of how big the congregation becomes. You don’t have to know everyone in the church as long as you know somebody in the church. If you miss a weekend service, not everyone will know you weren’t there, but your small group will know. Even the largest congregations seem small when your members are in small groups.

2. Small groups are flexible.

Small groups can meet anywhere. They can meet in a library, at a coffee shop, in a park, in an office during lunch, or in a home. The Bible says, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20 NIV).

3. Small groups are expandable.

You will run out of space and money if you try to build enough classrooms for your groups to meet at church. On the other hand, if your small groups are meeting across the community, then you will never run out of space.

We have small groups spread over 100 square miles around Saddleback Church. Don’t let buildings limit the number of small groups you can have. That’s like letting the shoe tell the foot how big it can get. Buildings are just a tool for ministry. Invest in people; they will last forever.

4. Small groups are economical.

When people meet at the church, we pay for the lights, and we pay for the janitors to clean up. But if a family hosts a small group in their home, they don’t expect the church to pay for utilities that night or to send a janitor over to clean up. In fact, they’re usually glad to take care of those things as part of their ministry to others.

Here’s another thing: You bring a guy into the church for a meeting and he might sit there like a bump on a log, but you put him in a home and give him a cup of coffee, and he may talk his head off. Why? Because you’ve put him in an environment that encourages fellowship.reccover

4 Reasons to Show Mercy

God wants you to be an agent of mercy in the world.

Everyone needs mercy because everyone has messed up. We’ve all hurt other people and made mistakes. We’ve all sinned and we all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups as a result of the mistakes we’ve made.

Mercy changes the lives of people who have made mistakes, and we who have received mercy freely can change the world around us by showing mercy to others.

Here are four reasons to keep showing mercy to others.

1. Show mercy to others because God has been merciful to you.
The Bible says that God is merciful. It is emphasized all through the Bible. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of verses that talk about God’s mercy and his love, his compassion, and his grace.

Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “God’s mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God’s grace you have been saved” (GNT).

The point of that Scripture is this: God wants me to act in the same way to other people.

2. Show mercy to others because God commands you.
In Micah 6:8, God speaks through the prophet to give us three big instructions for our lives. “The LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (NLT).

God says if you want a summary of what life’s all about, and if you’re going to be in his family, this is what’s required of you: You need to do what is right with others, to love being merciful to others, and to live humbly in fellowship with God.

One third of God’s requirement for you on this planet is to learn mercy. Why? Because God is merciful.

3. Show mercy because you’re going to need more mercy in the future.
You’re not going to be perfect between now and when you get to Heaven. The Bible tells us we cannot receive what we are unwilling to give.

James 2:13 says, “You must show mercy to others, or God won’t show mercy to you . . . But the person who shows mercy can stand without fear at the judgment” (NCV).

Don’t you want to be able to do that on judgment day? To be able to stand without fear on judgment day? It says the person who shows mercy can stand without fear on the judgment day.

It isn’t the people who have kept more rules than anyone else who get to face their eternity with the greatest confidence. It is believers who have shown mercy to other people.

4. Show mercy because it causes happiness.
Showing mercy brings happiness. The Bible teaches over and over that the more merciful I am, the happier I’m going to be.

Proverbs 14:21 says, “If you want to be happy, be kind to the poor; it is a sin to despise anyone” (GNT).

Being kind to other people actually blesses you and makes you happier in life. And mercy certainly produces greater joy in those to whom you’ve shown it.

Would you rather live in a world that is harsh or a world where the people around you value mercy?

You get to help shape a world of mercy around you and allow more people to find freedom from their past when you’re willing to show mercy.