My son gets his social skills from his mother’s side of the gene pool. We recently celebrated his 7th birthday party in our local park. When it came time to blow out the candles and dig into the cake with friends and family, three kids I had never seen before were somehow there too. Turned out, my son had made friends with them an hour ago and they were now part of the birthday festivities. Yup, that’s definitely from his mother’s side of the family.
During the party, one of the parents of a new school friend shared about homeschooling and traveling during the pandemic; this was their first year back and they wanted to throw their son back into the wild life of socialization. On the very first day of school, my son noticed their son’s backpack (which had sharks on it) and said, “You like sharks. I like sharks!” And just like that, they were friends.
It got me thinking about how I wish I could make friends this way. What would my relationships look like? What would my encounters with new people be like? What if, instead of approaching people with my social anxieties, prejudices and cynicism, I approached them with openness and acceptance - the way a seven-year-old might.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
Romans 15:7 NIV
With each passing day, our society is becoming more and more divided. If we differ on politics, we cut off friendships - even family ties. If we disagree on morality or what constitutes ethical versus unethical, we abandon all hope of reconciliation, casting the opposing person aside.
This is not the Biblical way. This is not how God treats us.
We forget the humanity of the other person. We squish them into an idea, a concept, a box, a position, an orientation, a behavior, a belief, and forget the thread that unites us all: that we were all of us — all of us — created in the image of God.
The Bible tells us in Romans 5:8 that while we were strangers to God — intentionally or unintentionally believing and acting opposite to His nature and will — He accepted us and invited us into His family. His acceptance comes long before we acknowledge Him, act like Him, or even believe in Him.
What if we did the same for others in our lives — even strangers?
Now, something to clarify here: accepting someone does not mean that we have to endorse everything about their life. It means that we do not reject them. These concepts are not mutually exclusive, even if the modern rhetoric tries to make us believe they are. Accepting others means that we see their humanity, shifting focus away from the differences and towards the commonalities of our hearts and lives.
From there, relationships are built. From there, we grow and change together. From there, we challenge each other in love and truth. From there, we forgive and reconcile. From there, we begin to see the beauty in our differences.
So the next time someone posts something on social media that goes against your ideals, or the next time you encounter a stranger who you automatically assign to a certain predetermined box you’ve made in your mind about people like that, pause to remind yourself of their humanity. Maybe they have a shark backpack and you like sharks too! Maybe they have little in common with you. But whoever they are, they’re still deserving of acceptance. Because just like you - and just like me - we are made in God’s image and that’s more than enough.