Larry Rorem.

Larry Rorem.

Respect for diversity creates healing

  • Sunday, June 4, 2017 7:26am
  • Neighbors

As a society and community, we spend a lot of energy focusing on our differences. We have legitimate differences. But too often our differences become walls of separation that result in disunity. We can spend, or in many cases, waste, our lifetime building up tension between ourselves and others. We fail to take seriously the good advice given in Psalm 133:1, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.”

We are tempted to insulate ourselves from the realities around us. We pour foundations in our own ideological concrete. We build walls with the lumber of such realities as gender, race, economic class, religious affiliation, political persuasion, sexual orientation, age, mental or physical disability, chemical dependence and criminal justice. As we insulate ourselves from these realities we bring further alienation and lack of understanding to our relationships.

If our loving and gracious God is confined to our personal comfort zones, we do great injustice to the inclusive love of our Lord. Humility encourages us to see beyond ourselves. It allows us to see others as they are rather than as we would like them to be. Humility opens the door to meaningful, helpful conversation and life changing experiences. On the other hand arrogance builds walls that prevent meaningful conversation. Arrogance isolates us and prevents healing.

Jesus himself suffered inside the walls of religious and political injustice. He was crucified outside the wall of civility and propriety. He rose again to break down the walls that separate people from God and from one another.

God’s unconditional love enables us to be agents of healing. Rather than judging the value, worth and acceptability of another person based on our interpretation we can respectfully accept all people as a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8 adds perspective to our shared hope, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

God opens us to a future filled with life, possibility and hope. We play an important part as healing agents in our community and society. Our respect for diversity enhances living and growing. God calls us to be people who reach across barriers — not create them.

The opportunities to be healing agents are unlimited. For example, the number of incarcerated people in Alaska is staggering. There is the undeserved trauma of victims of crime and their loved ones and friends, as well as the loved ones and friends of the incarcerated. Obviously, a significant portion of our state population is directly impacted. There are also many people who live with mental illness and other brain disorders such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, etc. They struggle daily with lack of services and frequently end up in prison because of their illnesses, rather than receive appropriate medical. This also deeply affects their loved ones and friends. In addition, substance and alcohol abuse raises havoc with both the user and their loved ones. We live with different realities, but we all need love and understanding. No one can categorically say they are excluded from the possibility of such painful realities.

What a blessing that God-given sensibility, understanding and love are available in every life scenario. God’s generous inclusivity gathers up the pieces of life rather than destroys us in our puzzling realities. When we eliminate anyone from concern we perpetuate divisions that diminish us.

God calls us to involve ourselves in hearing, telling and enacting, peace, justice and liberation. God engages us in life-giving and encircles us with unconditional love.

May the walls we are so tempted to build between us and others crumble as we are brought into God’s way of love.

• Pastor Larry Rorem is a retired Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastor living in Juneau.

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