This tree has character. It stands at the corner of a blueberry field near a busy, rural thoroughfare in West Olive. Its stoic presence greets us each Sunday morning as we drive to church.
Its trunk is scarred. Its bark is shredding. Compared to neighboring trees, its color is dull and boring. In spite of its odd characteristics, this tree is special. This particular tree's beauty is in its character.
Webster's definition of character is, "the group of qualities that make a person, group, or thing different from others."
I'm not quite sure how it happened, but being "different" in today's society isn't about character, it's about separation. In today's world, being different isn't tolerated. Differences in skin color, political party affiliation and sexual identities aren't celebrated, they are slammed. Differences in opinion are not discussed or debated, but protested and boycotted. Written comments are hateful. Spoken words are spiteful. And it seems the more we highlight the need for equality, the more we point out our differences and separate ourselves with polarized divisiveness.
Quite frankly, I've had enough. Enough of the bickering. Enough of the hate. Enough of judgmental jargon.
So today, I'm going to take Paul's words from Romans 12:18 and live it out, and I'll definitely need God's help to do it. The NIV translation states it this way: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
I'm going to start by cutting out an expanded section of Romans 12 and placing it where I spend time each day. Maybe my bathroom mirror. Maybe my desk at work. My laptop. My dashboard. And maybe, just maybe, as far as it depends on me, I may make a difference.
Here's the passage. From Romans 12:14-21. From the Message:
14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.Today I'm going to praise God that I'm different. I'm scarred, gnarly, struck by the lightning circumstances of life. And tomorrow, I'm going to celebrate that we are all different. Misshapen but beautiful. Black. White. Hispanic, Republican. Democrat. Presbyterian. Baptist. God created each of us with character. God created each of us as his children, with care.
17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
As far as it depends on me, I'm not going to highlight our differences. I'm not going to give anyone special treatment because they are different from me. I just want to love on everyone. I'm asking God to help me love others the way he loves me and see his special creations through the lens of his love.
Special. Loved. Made with character.