It’s hard to argue with anyone who shares what they have learned from their experiences. Our family and cultural experiences, the educational and travel opportunities that we have taken advantage of, and our professional work and missional serving opportunities all broaden our horizons. The authentic relationships we have with others all influence and shape how we feel about issues and view the world.
Each of us is shaped, one way or another, by those who raised and nurtured us. Faith communities have shaped many of us as well. We learn how we want to be, and we also encounter those who we hope we will never be like. The way we view things often stems from our exposure to others.
As much as reading and studying about, viewing from a distance and doing for others may enhance our lives, nothing compares to personal experience or catching the glimpse of another’s experience as we build authentic relationships with people and attempt to view things through their lens.
In recent weeks I have heard the fear and concerns of those who know, serve alongside and employ immigrants. Many fear deportation or families being torn apart. I have captured a glimpse by hearing stories of how some of my friends have experienced racial discrimination, which remains very real, by the way. I have also spent a little time seeing the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew that so many of our neighbors in eastern North Carolina are experiencing. Driving through the affected areas, hearing the stories of the families affected, meeting folks whose homes have become un-inhabitable and having conversations with others who are trying to meet the needs of those impacted by Hurricane Matthew raises awareness of the severity and impact of the damage caused by the storm and in our need to respond. I have also been moved by reaching a deeper understanding of the complexity of the life of a transgender person who is becoming a dear friend.
Just as our experiences and relationships broaden our horizons, our lack of experiences and authentic relationships with others who may be different from us in one way or another hinders our ability to understand. If we don’t make an intentional effort to form relationships with people who don’t share our life experiences, we are missing out. Jesus’ life during his public ministry was the epitome of one who intentionally spent time with folks who did not share the culture and life experiences that he was likely to have been exposed to as he grew up. If we do not follow His example, we are missing out on the blessing that comes by forming relationships with some beautiful people who we will feast with at the heavenly banquet. Let’s not miss out on the opportunities that are available to us now in this Kingdom.
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