Isn't it funny that after God designed each one of us to be a unique individual, we go to such extremes to be accepted by others that we will do anything not to be different. We don't want to stand out or draw attention to ourselves. Some people want to fit in so badly that they even point out and make fun of the differences in others. Most of us know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of this kind of cruelty. Children can be especially brutal to each other, but unfortunately, that behavior is not limited to the school playground or cafeteria. It is also very common in many churches today.
When I first became a Christian, my family joined a church that appeared to be warm and loving. We were so young in the Lord we didn't know any better until it was too late. Everyone was warm and loving for a few weeks after new members joined. However, if they did not conform to the accepted dress code and behavior quickly enough they were ostracized and treated like failures.
Many churches are like this. There are unspoken rules and guidelines that one must follow. Paul told us, "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise" (2 Corinthians 10:12).
God designed us so that we can all work together in His kingdom and carry out His plan for the world around us. He has placed each one of us in an environment that has been prepared for us. And He has prepared us for the environment. As we blend our different gifts into the work, the whole place benefits.
Baskin Robbins based their success on the fact that they offer thirty-one different flavors of ice cream. I love chocolate and orange sherbert in a waffle cone. My grandchildren always ask for the bubble gum flavor. They laugh at my orange and chocolate concoction and I yuck their bubble gum mess. Wouldn't the world be boring if we only had vanilla ice cream? Baskin Robbins would have had to sell hamburgers and get a Dairy Queen franchise. They certainly couldn't have become the success they are today if all ice cream were alike.
If we are going to carry the Gospel to the world or see our families come to know and serve Christ, we are going to have to learn to accept and embrace the differences in others. Not everyone is going to be like us. They may even hold differing viewpoints on important spiritual or political issues, but with patience and God's love, we can learn to appreciate the positive things they do offer. There is something good in everyone. We can be the one to find it and encourage others to accept them for who they are and not what we want them to be. When the church learns to do this, we will see the church come to life and begin to take her place in today's world.
Dr. Schuetz is an ordained minister and has been in ministry with her husband for twenty-five years. She has a PhD in clinical Christian counseling. She and her husband, Michael, of 33 years have 2 sons, 1 daughter, 9 grandchildren.