So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
-2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (New Living Translation)
How often do we consciously or subconsciously evaluate others from a human point of view? For all of us, this is a function of our existence that happens so quickly and fluidly. We are often unaware that it’s even taking place. What an awesome perspective the apostle Paul gives us in his letter to the church in Corinth! We no longer view either humans or Christ the same! We are a new person, a new creation! The radical change that has taken place within us deeply impacts the literal way we see people around us!
Growing up in Brazil, I had the privilege to make many friends who looked different, spoke another language, ate delicious Brazilian food, and lived in a different culture. I’m so grateful for all those years of playing soccer every day in the streets of São José dos Campos. My worldview was deeply shaped by those early years, and the diversity of those relationships very much impacted my perspective of God.
Fast-forward to the present day. For about two years, a group of like-minded friends joined together every week to discuss issues of polarization, division, and racial tension in our country. New relationships were forged, perspectives shared, and life experiences began to help each other see the vastly different challenges we each face. These conversations not only changed hearts and minds; new actions took place. Coffee dates and lunches began to fill the calendar. We listened to each other, shared stories, and had open conversations with others about various ethnic struggles that started to surface. Birthday parties with friends who would not previously have attended those celebrations began to take place. Invitations to panel discussions and participation on various non-profit boards took shape. A community of people committed to living as a uniter has taken root, and there is a new commitment to discovering the great character of God displayed in the vast gifts of Christ’s Church.
At Northland, two groups launched into a study this year that explored how to experience greater diversity, bridge the divide around us, and grow in God’s passion for people of every tongue, tribe, and nation to form a unified body of Christ. Jamila Millete and I had the privilege to co-facilitate these groups and have meaningful discussions not only with our local congregation but also with others who joined from out-of-state. These two groups met weekly and went through a study called Be the Bridge, where we prayed together, explored Scriptures, and broke into small groups to share our own experiences and transformation.
Sydney Mycroft, a college student in the group, recently said this—
“The time with this group impacted me in multiple ways. What started as a group of almost strangers by the end became family. Meeting with these people each week taught me how important hard conversations and vulnerability are in relationships. We sat in hard spaces and had tough conversations and only grew closer because of it. Having a group where I could bring my honest opinions and questions, knowing I wouldn’t be judged but would rather be embraced, was a beautiful space. It changed me for the better.”
Another college student, Uneeke Armani, highlighted how this time changed her view of the future—
“My time with everyone gave me hope. Hope for a better tomorrow. To see young and older generations come together to change something bigger than ourselves was a beautiful sight.”
One of the great truths that we discussed is how we are all made in God’s image, which biblical scholars often refer to as imago Dei. As Christians, we view the world as a new creation in Christ. The Holy Spirit gives us a new lens to see people and evaluate our circumstances. Because we are all made in God’s image, every time we are in a room where people look differently, we actually see God better! The greater the diversity in our skin color and ethnicity and backgrounds, the more we see Jesus in our midst!
Are you looking to dive into a diverse community in 2021? Would you like to see more of God and discover more of the Creator’s character? Join this amazing group of Uniters. Next year, there will be even more opportunities to meet people, hear stories, and participate in the work that Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21—
And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin so that we could be made right with God through Christ.