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Defying differences with love

'Us and them' strife is a call to prayer.

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The world seems trapped in perpetual "us and them" warfare – caught in the habitual groupings of nationality, age, race, and culture that highlight individual differences, rather than similarities.

At an early age we learn to pick sides for spelling bees, relay, baseball, or math teams. In our desire to be with what's familiar, we may become conditioned to look for and avoid what's different – not simply in acquaintances but in activities, choice of food, travel. Such a tendency imposes on one's natural leaning to love others and is a perspective that has negative implications for humanity as a whole.

The story of a Midwestern farmer defies that perspective. Every year, he won a blue ribbon for his corn at the state fair. A reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with neighbors. The reporter was surprised; the neighbors entered the same competition. The farmer explained that wind blows the pollen from field to field: "If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn."

What a life lesson! It points to solutions for every community and world problem and affirms that the welfare of everyone is bound up with the welfare of all. Further, it illustrates the effect of following Jesus' command to love our neighbor as ourself (see Mark 12:31).

Recently, a report of the work of Heifer International caught my attention. This organization provides a continuing supply of food by giving families, rather than short-term provisions, an animal to raise – such as a lamb, heifer, or chicken. Even more compelling is the project's "Passing on the Gift" aspect: Participants who receive a heifer, for example, agree to give a neighbor one of its calves, as well as the know-how to raise it. Each then experiences the joy of helping others while learning how to fulfill their own needs.

As a result, in places such as Tanzania, Christian and Muslim neighbors are, possibly for the first time, experiencing the wisdom and blessing of working together.


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