“Our father who art in heaven. Hallowed by Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth...”
The joy of growing up a Dutch/Norwegian kid born in Southwestern Minnesota was the statement I heard a lot: “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.”
I got such comfort from knowing I was part of such an elite class of human beings who knew we were right about everything. About religion. About politics. About morals and virtue. About race.
Pastor to Pastor
I literally remember thinking, “It’s so amazing that we have the correct view of scripture and life. Those people who don’t believe like we do, well, sucks to be them.”
Then I turned fourteen and started to realized other people felt the same way about their lives. About their ethnicity. About their political position. The nerve of such stupidity!
Living in a world of sameness was all I knew most of my formative years. People who looked like me, spoke like me, thought like me, listened to the same music as me, went to church with me, had the same values as me, and hated the same things as me.
It was probably my Christian high-school friend, Randy, who started to help open my eyes to my sin of sameness. He lead me to Jesus my senior year of high school and shortly before graduation I learned that he was gay.
It would be an understatement to say learning Christian Randy was gay shook my world.
As we talked and went to church together, a slow but steady change was taking place in my heart. Something like scales of blindness began to fall off my eyes. I began to read the Bible seriously.
But, in all honesty, my sin of sameness did not serve me well in reading the scriptures. In fact I was so jammed full of judgementalism, pride, exclusivity and right-ness that I would only see and underline the passages that agreed with me and my particular positions in life.
College further challenged my commitment to sameness. So did getting married and adopting children. And becoming a pastor. And serving my neighbors.
I began to understand that my choosing to only hang with people like me was the breeding ground for the sin of sameness which would only reinforce my wicked notions of superiority and prejudice.
Eventually I made a game-changing decision about 15 years ago; to seek out people with whom I might become friends who are not like me and hang with them.
It gave me encouragement when I’d read Rev. 7:9
"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Realizing that in the Kingdom of God, the very one Jesus prayed would come, there is absolutely no support for my sin of sameness. In fact, God’s Kingdom screams for diversity and love and deference.
In struggling against my sin of sameness with the help of the Holy Spirit and choosing to become actual friends with people NOT like me.
I’ve been learning some things.
I’ve learned from my homeless friends Ron, Mandi and Joseph that many homeless people are bright, intelligent and live on the streets by choice. And I learned (from them) a level of fierce commitment to one another that humbles me.
I’ve learned about commitment and grace from my gay neighbors, Steve & Ray and Shaun & Rich.
I’ve learned from my black pastor friend, Victor, that my heart still harbors prejudice and privilege that largely stems from my own ignorance. And from my black daughter that her heart gets viciously stabbed by careless and sometimes intentional statements about race or color.
I’ve learned from women in ministry that women are vital and necessary leaders/pastors in the church of Jesus.
I’ve learned from my 18-year-old bike shop manager that living in the United States as an undocumented person is frighteningly difficult.
I’ve learned serving the poor in the fullness of serving means I must accept being served by them as well. Simply serving can reinforce a sense of power and authority in me unless I learn to humbly accept being served.
I’ve learned that unless I fight, with the breath of the Spirit the sin of sameness in my narrow, dark heart, I will always be working against the Kingdom of God on earth.
And I’ve learned that God is patient and loving with uber-jerks like me. And that if you ain’t Dutch … it’s probably better that way.