Highlighting our Similarities Over our Differences

September 26, 2017 | Pastor Steve Huffman

I have considered over the last weeks, why we collectively all desire better and stronger relationships, but seem as though we are racing towards more division. Why are we shifting further away from the relationships we all desire?

Let me clarify what I have in mind when I say “we”, I mean the collective we - all of us - South Bend, Mishawaka, Elkhart, the Region, the state, the United States and the world! It seems as though we are trying to find close relationships with individuals who share all of the same qualities at all of the same quantities that we do. We believe these shared characteristics will bring our relationships bliss, but it isn’t working. The media is continuously sharing stories about individuals who speak out and act on their differences instead of sharing stories that highlight a vision of our similarities.

Our similarities are being crushed under a debate that has become about our differences. However, truth be told, we are not all that different.

I recently taught a class about the history of The Vineyard Church in the United States and within the room, there were people from many faith backgrounds. United Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist, Atheist, Catholic, Methodist, and Lutheran. Those backgrounds and belief systems created a richness in the room that was helpful to all. Our relationships grew in that room as we learned about one another - not debating why other belief systems were wrong - but rather, discussing what brought us together and the lessons we’ve learned along the way.

I understand that we all have differences and that some of our differences around the country and hauntingly tragic; however, dividing over differences creates little to no vision to unite ourselves collectively, together, to improve the whole. Let me share something more practical. If I live next to someone who looks and acts differently than I am and who has a different belief system from myself, it makes no sense for me to create division with my neighbor over our differences when we can unite in our similarities to improve our neighborhood. It is likely that we both share a common vision for a nice neighborhood for our children and for our homes.

For example, disagreements and division can happen within the church regardless of the size of the difference. If I only wanted the worship team to sing the songs I like and never sing the songs the person worshipping beside me likes, I would be highlighting our differences rather than rallying behind the similar desire we share to worship Jesus no matter the tune.  

Strong relationships are built when we focus on what we have in common and we build on that similarity rather than rallying around our differences, competing over who has the louder voice or better arguments. Stronger relationships are built when we value our neighbor above ourselves and set aside our differences.   

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Phil 2:3-4

Omar Lopez

Pastor Steve Huffman oversees a number of areas including leadership development, campus development, and prayer ministries. He has been at Vineyard since 2012 and joined our staff in 2015.