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May22TueGod calls us to break down the barriers that foster discrimination and intolerance. May 22, 2012 by Rochelle McAlister
One of the interesting things about Christianity is that you can spend your entire life studying it and still not exhaust its riches, yet even a child can grasp the essence of the gospel. Basically, following Jesus is about loving God with everything that we are, and loving our neighbours just as much as we love ourselves.
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When questioned about the greatest commandment, “Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).
If we want to follow Jesus, we have to love our neighbours. All of our neighbours. It's the most natural thing in the world to want to spend time with people who look like us, think like us or act like us. But it's the most Christian thing in the world to want to spend time with people who are different from us. The family of God is, and should be, diverse.
Society may require us through laws or norms to show tolerance to all, but Christ requires us to move a step beyond tolerance to reconciliation and love. Jesus Christ preached and lived love, compassion and inclusion for the excluded, and yet somehow in his name, the Church throughout the years has been known to promote discrimination against those who are different. Religious views and select Bible verses have been invoked to support racism, sexism, religious intolerance and homophobia. I wonder if using God's name to defend discrimination embarrasses, infuriates or hurts him?
As Christians, we're meant to live, breathe and express love for all of our neighbours. There is no room for discrimination. While it may take us out of our comfort zones to speak with people from different backgrounds or cultures, it's essential that we seek to engage with others. As we do so, we will find that we have more in common than we thought and much to learn from each other.
What can individuals, families or corps do to end discrimination?
• Check your heart, attitude, thoughts, words and actions for discrimination and seek change
• Speak up when your family members, friends and co-workers make discriminatory comments
• Get to know people who are different from you
• As a corps, look at your leadership team and assess how you can be more
representative of your community
God has used amazing creativity in his design of human beings—making us in different colours, sizes, personalities and abilities. Human diversity is a reflection of God's joy. God wants us all to live in unity with himself and with each other. As Christians there cannot be any room in our hearts for discrimination, whether based on gender, colour, ethnicity, language, ability or disability, sexual orientation, illness, age, economic status or any other factor.
As The Salvation Army, we believe that all people are made in the image of God and are thus of equal intrinsic value.
For more information about the Army's position on Human Dignity, visit SalvationArmyEthics.org/positionstatements/human-diversity.