Final thoughts on the topic of community…
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Or so they say. “Value the differences.” That’s what I heard throughout marriage counseling.
Herein lies one of secular culture’s most ridiculous statements – a statement that runs contrary to human nature, biblical advice and plain old good logic. It shapes our cultural and socio-economic landscape and influences our politics. And here’s the statement: unity and respect occur only when people see our distinctives and uniqueness. In other words, exalting diversity promotes unity. Though that idea makes for good speech writing, really, the opposite is true. Unity comes from the realization that in most ways, all people value and live life the same.
Take marriage, for example. The book title I quoted above and many others say that our marriages improve when we learn to love what’s different about our spouse. But when was the last time anyone loved the most irritating things about anyone, much less the person they live with? No, that’s crazy talk. What keeps people close is their common ground, their similar interests, and their willingness to focus on the things that endear them to each other, not the personality traits that polarize. Compatibility occurs with people who like the same things, not with those who talk about how different they are.
Another great example is race relations. Racial dialogue has been based upon the differences between Hispanic, Caucasian, and African-American groups, among others. So, we sit around and talk about how great our differences are and how distinctive each other’s culture is - we emphasize uniqueness and independent value. But honestly, all that does is subconsciously direct us back to why separation and hostility exists. It’s illogical. Rather than focusing on our distinctives, we should be valuing the similarities among us: food, clothing, shelter, love, friendship, life, death, grief, family, and honor. Those are what make us the same. Community is found in our similarities, not our differences. We need to value what we have in common rather than carving out a place of distinction for ourselves. That’s what Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 12 – our differences and distinctives (in that passage, spiritual giftings) must be eclipsed by our vision for the whole body. What did Paul see as the common denominator among all peoples? Jesus Christ.
I heard a statistic long ago that really drives this point home. All the genetic anomalies among all the people of the world only add up to 2%. That means you and I are only 2% different than the person we might think is physically the most unlike us. Two percent! Yet, we spend the majority of our time exploiting that 2% for recognition rather than finding commonality and unity within the other 98%.
So, if I’m just stating the obvious here, why do we do it? Why do we harp on those differences (whether intellectual, cultural, or political)? Because our society promotes individuality. We have to be different so we can stand out. I used to be obsessed with being different. Now, not so much. I think average is pretty great, too. Being average will not bring about societal or spiritual death – it’s just being content as part of the 98%. And that makes for good company and a whole lot of friends.