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Sep20FriHow do we make room for others? It starts with changing our perspective. September 20, 2019 by Lt-Colonel John P. Murray
It was the sporting event of the decade, a triumph that brought Canada together in all its diversity. In June, the Toronto Raptors won the NBA finals, bringing the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy north of the border for the first time. This was not only a sporting triumph; it was a seismic cultural shift. We are no longer just hockey lovers; we are now a basketball nation. In the words of the Raptors slogan: We the North!
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The Raptors’ spring playoff run started slowly, but by the end of the second round, the franchise had galvanized Canadians. In dozens of communities across Canada, people gathered in arenas and parks to watch the playoff games together. As the world’s media descended on Toronto, viewers’ perception of Canada’s largest city was changed. They discovered a multi-ethnic, multicultural mosaic of people with a love for basketball, diversity and inclusiveness.
Sometimes it takes a monumental event to help us see ourselves and others differently. In her book Jesus, CEO, Laurie Beth Jones says, “Jesus did not always perceive situations the way others did.” Indeed, “Jesus was always seeing things differently.”
As a leader and teacher, Jesus always looked for the best in people and the most effective outcomes for situations. His perspectives and understanding were unique in that he genuinely tried to engage elders and leaders, teachers and merchants, in the work of the kingdom. He encouraged his followers and other leaders to consider looking at situations and circumstances through different lenses, angles and perspectives.
Jesus also saw the diversity around him and embraced it. He elevated a Samaritan woman (see John 4), welcomed children (see Matthew 19:14), associated with tax collectors (see Luke 19) and healed lepers (see Matthew 8)—people who were typically excluded or disregarded by society. Jesus’ decisions were often countercultural and ran against the grain of society. By challenging the status quo, he made room for diversity in his kingdom.
I remember one of my first trips to Heathrow Airport in London, England. I saw that HSBC—the global banking behemoth—had advertised with a series of posters on every mobile jetway. The ads showed identical objects side by side with contrasting descriptions. A souped-up classic car from the 1950s was described both as a “status symbol” and a “polluter.” A Persian rug was identified as a “souvenir” and a “place of prayer.” A piece of sushi bursting with fish eggs was both “nasty” and “tasty.” The tag line read, “The more you look at the world, the more you recognize people’s different values.” The gist of their advertising was that culture and perspective are vitally important in understanding people and situations.
In The Salvation Army, we hold fast to our biblical principles and core values, but we must also learn to see people through different cultural lenses. Every day we make decisions, and often the outcomes of our decisions directly affect family members or employees, partner organizations or volunteers. Leaders must be transparent in their willingness to engage varying perspectives that might differ from their own. When a leader takes the time to engage, listen and consider varying opinions, it often leads to better decision-making. It takes courage to engage colleagues and team members in this “fair process.”
In practical terms, this means ensuring our boards, committees and corps councils better reflect the diversity of communities and congregations we serve. It means identifying young leaders who can be mentored and trained. It means rejecting racism, sexism and prejudice against those with disabilities. It means seeking the input of the people we serve, listening to their needs and engaging them in the process of improving their lot in life.
As a leader, Jesus made room for others. It is my prayer that we will seek to walk alongside those who need help in our communities and who walk through the doors of our ministry units. Continue to engage, reflect and consider differing perspectives and opinions, and you will be amazed to see how God will bless and use you for his glory in ministry.
Lt-Colonel John P. Murray is the territorial secretary for communications.
Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young