People Are People, Everywhere

“… There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11).
People in Bangladesh honor the memories of deceased loved ones by taking out advertisements in newspapers on “death anniversaries”. They may do this for several years, or even throughout the lifetime of a particular survivor. I first thought this practice unusual, though touching. After returning to the U.S. recently, however, I was at the worship assembly of my home congregation when a beautiful arrangement of flowers was placed in memory of one of our departed members, a few years after his death. I realized that we all have the same needs regarding the death of loved ones — the same desire to remember and honor them, and the same regret at the necessity of “letting them go”. The way we express and satisfy those needs varies by culture, and to some degree by individual, but the needs are universal.
People are in all fundamental respects the same. There is much individualism, expressed in physical differences and personality. Many of these are environmentally produced, while others are genetic. But beyond all these are the essential characteristics which define us as human, and as made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Students of human behavior identify certain universal needs, shared by all people everywhere. The Bible certainly supports the view that we are all one, made by the same creator, saved by the same gospel (see Romans 1:16; 10:13; John 3:16, etc.). Once we realize that fact, whole worlds of relationships, opportunities and responsibilities open up to us.
It is obvious that our Christian responsibilities to “do good unto all men” (Galatians 6:10) and to “go?preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) are universal in scope and not to be limited to any race, social class, or nationality. Opportunities vary, but many are open to those who will go or send (Romans 10:14,15), even in remote parts of the world. I wonder, however, whether the possibility of relationships with those of other nationalities, cultures, languages and races ever occurs to many of us.
Lately I have been putting on my visa applications under “purpose for traveling” the explanation, “visiting friends”. Only after I had considered this response for a time did I realize just how true and appropriate it is. And then I realized how blessed and privileged I am to have so many close friends in so many parts of the world. Not just for the number (though I certainly cannot have too many friends!), but for the richness of the variety of relationships I enjoy. I benefit from exposure to those cultural and personality differences previously mentioned. But the relationships are possible because of the human characteristics we share. Indian, Bangla, Nepali, Bhutanese, Guyanese, Surinamese, or other ?- it makes no difference in our ability to relate, to share, and to love one another.
Do you have “foreign friends”? Perhaps you think, “I cannot have foreign friends because I have never traveled.” But there are many “foreigners” visiting among us (this is true in virtually any country, wherever you may live). Do you seek them out, try to get to know them? Doing so will broaden your experiences as well as helping them. In addition to those experiences there are opportunities to correspond with people in other countries through email, correspondence courses, and in many other ways. Open your eyes to other people in other places. God seeks and accepts people of every classification (Acts 10:34,35). So should we.

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Michael Brooks

Since 1988 Mike and his wife Brenda have been involved in foreign missions in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Beginning in 1999 they devoted full time to missions, primarily in Bangladesh and Nepal.

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