Embracing Our True Common Ground
In a talk at Dallas Seminary, Trip Lee said, “It is not wrong to feel drawn to people you have most in common with; you just might have misunderstood who you have most in common with.” Humanity lives in a constant state of dissonance, caught between enjoying our sameness and noticing and admiring our differences. But for the family of God, the solution to relational division lies in embracing our common ground—Jesus. It may sound like a Christian cliché, but Jesus’s life and ministry demonstrate a breaking down of the man-made categories invented to provide us with places to belong. He deconstructed all kinds of groups. In their place he continues to bring people together to build his “household”—a singular group of Christ-followers who together form a dwelling place for the lost and lonely to find a home (Eph 2:20).
It all sounds great in theory, but can the people of God actually do more than find common ground? Can they themselves become the residence where others find refuge? Consider these practical steps to help you widen your circle to include the “outsiders” inside the church.
Invite someone with a different relationship status to outings with your friends or family. The invitation should go both ways. If single, try extending an invitation to your couple friends who have kids. Married with teenage children? Try inviting your divorced or widowed friend along. Invite these people to a picnic at the park or have them over for dinner. Make this a part of your regular routine. If nervous about the implications or boundaries to consider when inviting single or married people into your circle, seek advice from other believers about how to spend time with members of the opposite sex with wisdom. Never use the fear of sin as an excuse to exclude. Fight to find ways to widen your circle well.
If married, look for ways to support the ministry efforts of the singles or kid-less adults you know. The singles in your life might have capacity to serve people in ways you as a parent or spouse can’t. Support their initiatives and sacrifices of time by showing up to their poetry slam, financially contributing to their mission work, or committing to pray for them every Tuesday during the Bible study they lead. As a single person, look for ways to encourage and support your married or single-parent friends. Maybe you could offer to baby-sit so they can go on a date. Perhaps you could steal a busy mom away for coffee and some much-needed adult conversation. What about the single 80-year-old man who lives next door? Could you bake him some cookies, mow his grass, or stop by and check in on him?
Finally, when you need help or direction, ask people in different phases of life for their advice. Mutual respect builds unity. God has surrounded you with people in different life stages not because they need you, but because you need each other. Assemble your “board of advisors” with people from every stage who love Jesus, and when life deals you a difficult decision, utilize the wisdom God will reveal to you through their various perspectives. Ask them for help in the little things—a lift home from the mechanic, a dog-sitter while on vacation, or a great book recommendation. Don’t just reach out to the friends who seem to have the most in common with you. Seek aid from your extended circle, and in so doing, you will widen your appreciation for the various ways they reflect different aspects of God’s personality and character.
Cultivating space for others to belong is embedded in our DNA as followers of Jesus and members of his re-defined family. Belonging to one body, we naturally hold different priorities and specialize in different things. In obedience to our creator and in observance of our designated functions, we engage in movement simultaneously. Through embracing the tension of our differences and carefully maintaining an accurate view of ourselves as one, we can experience the full effect of the familial euphony designed for those who find their place within God’s family.
About The Author
Sarah is a student at Dallas Theological Seminary working on her Masters in Theology with an emphasis on New Testament studies. She is passionate about giving everyday people access to robust biblical knowledge, in order that they may understand more fully the intricacy and depth of God’s love for them. Sarah resides in Arlington, Texas with her husband Josh and their two girls, Hannah and Addie.