Vive la Différence

I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a pretty homogenous town. I liken it to being enveloped in bubble wrap. Mine was a protected upbringing where anyone different stood out. When my husband became a Soldier, he blended into any camouflage group. My little boys would grab onto the boots of any Soldier and look up for “daddy” because everyone looked like daddy. But even with this visual uniformity, military life was different. Different as in: different people, different attitudes, a different way of doing things. And the diversity caused unanticipated culture shock.

I soon learned to appreciate different! Every military community brings together different groups—people from different religions, even Christians from different denominations with different practices. I learned that “different” did not mean it was time to draw division lines, but to embrace differences and be enriched by encountering something new.

The Jewish leaders who criticized Jesus for eating with “tax collectors and sinners” did not like “different.” The fact that Jesus shared a table with those who were considered outsiders made them suspicious of him. Their job was to ensure everyone followed the same religious rules, and this made Jesus’ actions unacceptable. They did not understand that Jesus did not just eat with people who were different for the sake of being different. He knew that even—especially—those who were different in his day had spiritual needs. They were spiritually sick. They needed healing, salvation, and hope.

Military life certainly brings together people from a variety of backgrounds, but all of us have in common a need for Christ’s mercy and salvation. Jesus prioritized people in need and gave them a place at his table. Sisters, don’t be afraid of different.

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