How to Connect With People Who Are Different
Last summer, at my home church in Dallas, I had the opportunity to share some thoughts on some steps we can take in making connections with people who are different than us. Over the last week, this study has been on my mind and decided to revisit my notes. I drew a lot of inspiration for this topic from the book “The Third Option”, by Miles McPherson. It’s one of the most complete Christian perspectives on overcoming racism I have come across. I highly recommend it!
I’m not giving anything away by telling you that Pastor Miles’ book encourages us not to be racist. Shocker, right?! You would think that we wouldn’t need a book on not being racist, prejudiced, or discriminatory towards other people, but we’re human and we need all the help we can get.
As humans, we are homogeneous creatures. We are naturally drawn towards and prefer to be with other people who are like us. I’m Black. I like being around Black people. Quite frankly, it feels safer. But just because it’s most comfortable does not mean it is right to live my life trying to avoid people who aren’t like me.
I want to spend these few minutes of your time and attention I have briefly sharing what I learned and taught last summer. Here’s the outline:
- The COMFORT Myth
- The OTHER Lie
- A NEW View
- NO Fear
- EMPATHY Rules
- Created for COMMUNITY
- TRUTH Talk
(The first letter from each all CAPS word spells C-O-N-N-E-C-T. Cute, right? Lol)
The Comfort Myth
I deserve to be comfortable. There it is. That’s the myth.
No…no I don’t. That’s not even a reasonable expectation of life. Life ain’t easy enough for us to expect everything to be comfortable. Not to mention, the only way for us to know comfort is to experience discomfort.
Getting to know people who are different than us isn’t always going to feel comfortable. We have to move ourselves out of what is comfortable in order to have any meaningful relational development with people who aren’t just like us.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 tells us that comfort is God’s department. Exposing ourselves to discomfort makes us eligible to access true comfort from God. And our uncomfortable experiences help us develop the empathy necessary to engage with people with others.
The Other Lie
Very generally speaking, people can be divided into two groups, as it relates to each of us individually: IN group and OUT group. People like me are in my in group; people not like me are in the out group.
But what if we framed our relation to others through the lens of Genesis 1:26-27, where God creates mankind? The scripture says that God created us in HIS image. That means we’re all more alike than we are different.
Stop othering people. Instead of looking at how we might exclude people from our lives, let’s look for the common areas that allow us to include them.
A New View
Not only are we each made in God’s image, but God put a lot of thought into each of us. Each of us is a masterpiece, sculpted and painted by the same great artist—the Creator of the universe!
The psalmist David expresses, in Psalm 139:13-18, how wonderfully made he knows he is. He goes on to detail how special he knows he is to God. We can all sing this song! We are more alike than we are different, but there ARE differences.
Not all of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings were the same, but his style was distinct and each painting a masterpiece of it’s own. Each of us is the handiwork of an artist greater and more detailed than Van Gogh. We should try to view each other that way. Art.
“Recognizing a person’s priceless value makes them inherently honorable, and causes us to cherish them as we would a prized possession”Miles McPherson, 2018, p.25
Love is a tricky thing… except that it’s not. We make love harder than it has to be by placing all types of conditions and restrictions on it.
When we don’t love freely, it is because we’re afraid. We fear not having our love reciprocated. We fear being hurt. But when we have God’s love in us, we experience perfect love and fear no longer has to be a factor. God wasn’t afraid to love us, so because He loved us, we can fearlessly pay that love forward. See 1 John 4:4,17-21.
In his book, The Third Option, Pastor Miles McPherson shares what he calls “Honorable Assumptions” that we should make of other people—especially of people who seem different than us (McPherson, 2018, p.164):
- Their life is an unfolding story that God is still working on. (Jeremiah 29:11)
- They want their story to end positively. (Proverbs 13:12)
- They will respond positively if I communicate honorably. (Proverbs 15:1)
These things are true for each of us, so these are safe assumptions to make of others. These are empathic assumptions. You don’t have to know a person’s whole story to empathize with them.
Created for Community
We are relational creatures. None of us should be trying to do life alone and we should not allow others to walk alone either. God created us in community and “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).”
Community works when we make it work. The success of community is a first person obligation and prerogative.
“Finally…whatever is true, whatever is honorable…think about these things (Philippians 4:8).” There’s a difference in being honest and telling the truth. I can be honest about how I feel, all while the foundation for my feelings lacks the stability the truth provides. Conversely, we can make true statements and be intellectually dishonest. Not all honesty is honorable.
Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6). We lead and connect with others in truth through our obedience to The Truth.
The vision of NET Church is to make God known and make His name great by making disciples and developing Christian community, in which people can grow as they go through life together—loving one another, in Christ, and spreading that love everywhere they are and every place they go.
Each of us can do this, starting now—regardless of how we did it yesterday, from right where we are.
Reference: McPherson, Miles (2018). The Third Option: Hope for a Racially Divided Nation. USA: Simon & Schuster
“The Third Option Challenge was created to give you an opportunity to chose ‘The Third Option,’ by expressing your love for someone who doesn’t look like you.”
Keith Goosby II is the founding minister of NET Church. He has served in ministry for over 20 years, in various capacities–including music, social media management, teaching, preaching, consulting, and leadership. Keith’s first church experience as a child was a home church. Since then, he has attended and served at churches sizing from just a few to over 10,000–of various denominations and affiliations. As NET Church is being planted, Keith continues to serve at his Dallas home church, Golden Gate MBC, in Dallas, TX, under the leadership of Minister Vincent T. Parker. Keith is married and currently lives in the Dallas area with his wife and three sons.