Featured in the March, 2009 Issue of the Ashburn Baptist News
Someone phones the church or attends a service and immediately runs up his “I am different” flag.
One says, “I am single”, another “I am a Senior Citizen”, someone else is handicapped, Hispanic, a teen-ager, unemployed, black, widowed, alcoholic, left-handed, divorced, Asian, or an ex-con. Each has his own “difference” in sharp focus.
However, we are all different in some way! The danger is that we suffer from the disease of “differentitis.”
A person so afflicted is convinced that he needs special treatment because of his difference. He is sure there has to be some special niche, some special organization or some special activity particularly for him.
He may ask, “What is there for me at Ashburn Baptist?” The answer is, “Everything.” However, you will be reluctant to receive anything as long as you keep feeling that you are different from everyone else.
Basic Needs No matter who you are, you share a core of basic needs with everyone else. Whether you are an albino, bald, a confirmed bachelor, five-times divorced, eight years old or 90 years old, there is the need to be recognized, to be accepted, to be loved, to have a sense of worthwhileness, to be listened to, respected and trusted. Also, you are lost and need to be saved by Jesus. Amazingly, when these basic needs are met we forget about our differences.
We usually think we are unhappy and insecure because we are “different”, but actually it is because basic needs are unmet. A deaf person may feel his loneliness is due to his deafness, but that does not explain why a wealthy person is lonely … or a poor person.
Every person is different in some way. We just tend to focus on our own difference and, therefore, forget the difference of others.
Specialized needs, such as a crutch for a lame person or glasses for a farsighted person, are incidental compared with the basic needs being adequately met.
Mainstreaming Ours is a scientific age which tends to label people and then lump them with their own kind. This academic approach is all right for textbooks, statistical charts, graphs and sociological studies, but is an abomination for real life.
A blind person should not spend all his time with blind people, nor should a teen spend all his time with teens, a single with singles, nor a senior citizen his time with other oldsters.
Mainstreaming is wholesome. A good church gives an opportunity for a person to benefit by association with different kinds of people. The widowed and divorced can find friends to ease the pain of separation. The unemployed may get a job lead. The teen will benefit from the experiences and wisdom of older people, and the golden-ager will be re-invigorated by fellowship with younger folk.
Some churches have gone overboard on “meeting needs” by finding a small slot for each handful of people and keeping them in it. There is some value in association with others who face experiences similar to your own, but there is a greater value in mingling with a multitude of folk and downplaying your “difference.”
Though there may be Sunday School classes for different ages and interests, the main emphasis of a church is upon its great and glorious public worship services attended by large numbers of people who discover that the majesty and glory of God are so overwhelming that the Lord alone is worthy of our worship and that He has more than enough power to help us with our problems.
Oneness Perhaps the time has come to renounce the foolishness of magnifying our differences and get on with living. However we differ, we are all descendants of Adam and Eve and members of one human race.
Furthermore, everyone who has repented of sin and received Jesus Christ as Savior is in the family of God and the Bible says that here “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
A Biblical church rejects the foolishness of emphasizing differences. Are we not all sinners? Are we not all saved in the same way by the same Savior and members of the same church, reading the same Bible and heading for the same heaven?
The person who cultivates the “I am different” notion is feeding his self-pity and looking for special favors and advantages. He wants special treatment and if he doesn’t get it he is angry at the whole world for not writing him a big enough check.
However, when we emphasize our oneness then we become ready to accept responsibility and be accountable to God to take up our task in life, to bear our own burdens and do it so joyously that we have strength enough to be a blessing to someone else.