One of the greatest experiences in my life was travelling to India to teach music at the Asian Christian College of Music in Thiruvanathampurum, Kerla. (And yes, I can pronounce the name of the city I lived in for a month.) What a beautiful way to experience a different culture and truly connect with the students at the college. I taught conducting, music composition and theory, and also worked with their piano and keyboard students.
As a musician, I never thought of myself as a missionary who would travel half way across the world to share and live with people I had never met before. There were many things I missed from home, but I was amazed at how many things we had in common. So much of the angst and division we have in our society occurs when we focus on our differences rather than the many things we have in common. In order to teach effectively, I had to rely on the things my students and I could both relate to. As we found common ground, we then were able to explore, experience and learn from one another things that were unique to our cultures. Since I had the privilege of seeing them every day and spending several hours together, as I got to know them I had a desire to understand their culture more and appreciated what they were teaching me.
Diversity is an amazing gift from God. When we are willing to look at things from other people’s perspective we grow in knowledge, in love for our fellow humans, in appreciation for a different way of doing or seeing something, in other words we simply become better people. It is sometimes scary to embrace things we know little about or have not experienced, but the rewards are many as we expand our understanding of the world we live in. If all people are made in the image of God, we must strive to learn more about other cultures so we have a true picture of the God we love and serve. After all, God isn’t American or African or Indian, He is the God of the Universe.
We live in a divided country where we need to find common ground with the people around us. Looking first to the things that we have in common can be a starting point. As I worked with the students overseas, I realized there were many things that made them like college students here in the states. They didn’t like to study, they sometimes complained about assignments, and a few didn’t do the work required for the course. There are universal concepts that transcend cultures. We all feel a need to be heard. We all want to belong. We all want to be respected and treated well. We all need Jesus!
Diversity is not a synonym for divided, it simply means “a range of different things.” We serve a God that is the epitome of diversity. He created a world filled with endless differences to enrich our lives. He promised us life and a life of abundance. “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
Consider planning a worship service this spring and use diversity as the theme. Let’s stretch beyond what we normally do and experience the abundant life in our worship as well as in our every day lives.
Sing on, Friend!