In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul recognized that there was great benefit in differences, namely (but not only) demonstrated through spiritual gifts. He shares in 1 Corinthians 12:12–26 about the benefit of each member of a church and their gifting by using the analogy of a body without hands or feet. The body functions fully and most effectively when each part is playing its essential role. Each member of the church is important and needed because God has generously given a variety of gifts.
The full context of the text in reference is about the func- tion of the church, but the ideas can be applied to all of our lives. There is a benefit in knowing and interacting with others who are not just like you. And if you and I want to apply Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians, knowing others who are not like us allows for greater flourishing. We lose out when we stick with those just like us and—though this is far from exhaustive— I’ve been encouraged by the following six benefits to knowing someone different than you:
As already mentioned, one benefit of knowing those who are not just like you is that the family of God benefits from a variety of giftings. God intentionally did not make us all the same. God has given you and me spiritual gifts according to His great wisdom (Rom. 12:6). The purposes of these gifts aren’t so that you can flaunt them or keep them for your own good—just the opposite (12:3). The purpose of your spiritual gifts is for the benefit of others. By knowing those who are not like us, we learn to serve others with the varied gifts God has given us for their benefit and their good.
- A Taste of Heaven Now
Heaven will be filled with people from Indonesia, Dubai, Zambia, the Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee, and the Grand Cayman Islands. Worshipping on the last day will include people speaking French, German, Spanish, English, Tagalog, and Arabic. And today we can get a foretaste of heaven when we step out of our comfort zones to get to know someone not like us.
- Edi cation
Along with a variety of gifts, we all have different experiences. Life doesn’t look the same for every person. Unless someone gets to know me, they’d never know that I traveled abroad, played the flute, or that I have had four miscarriages. God can use the unique experiences of others to encourage your faith, help you make decisions, or provide comfort. God’s Word is filled with Scriptures encouraging us to build up one another. The Lord may just use that person who is not like you to bring the unique comfort you need from Him.
- Racial Reconciliation
There’s a rumor that, as a society, we are postracial, but the reality is not only are we not past racial divides, we continue to hear about division, racism, and tragic circumstances involving race throughout the country. Knowing others who are not like you is one way to display to the world that we are unified in Christ through the gospel. It serves as a powerful picture of the transforming work of the gospel.
- Gaining Understanding and Wisdom
Have you ever heard the term “ignorance is bliss”? It means that what you don’t know won’t hurt you. When relating to others, ignorance is not bliss; it’s just plain old ignorance. Instead of remaining unknowing, you and I should instead strive to gain understanding through developing relationships with those not like us.
- Seeing in Color
Imagine not being able to see color—it’s a disorder that affects quite a number of people today. Unfortunately, it’s a position regarding ethnicity that has been celebrated. Well-meaning and probably truly loving people use this phrase often, but I’d like to suggest that you are not color-blind, you don’t need to be color-blind, and you should strive to not be color-blind. If you’d like to grasp the full beauty of God’s creation, see color. Instead of pretending like we are color-blind, let’s celebrate God’s creation. Ethnic differences aren’t the result of the Fall; celebrate the unique beauty of each and look forward to seeing heaven filled with the colors of all nations.
God intentionally created us unique. He could have made us all the exact same. He had the power to do that. Instead He chose to create you by name and with great thought (Ps. 139:13) and He delights over those He created (Zeph. 3:17). He has given each of us to one another to learn and grow from—this is His gift to us.