Few boxing rivalries are as legendary as the one between Joe Louis, an African-American boxer, and Max Schmeling, a German fighter who was a favorite of Hitler’s (although Schmeling personally had no love for the Nazi regime). The two men were promoted as bitter rivals, but the truth is that the two later became close friends. Schmeling even helped pay for Louis’ funeral in 1981. Very different from one another, they shared a friendship that went beyond the bounds of sameness.
Years ago, the alumni magazine of a large US university featured an image of undergraduates, including an African-American student, cheering on their football team. The only problem was that the student hadn’t ever attended a football game! It turned out that—in an attempt to showcase the supposed diversity of the school—the editors had Photoshopped the student’s face into the crowd. This true story sadly reflects the shallow perspective people often have toward diversity.
Geel is a charming town in Belgium with a unique population—a significant percentage of the people there have a diagnosis of mental illness. Host families to these persons are given no details of their guests’ diagnoses. Instead, they welcome their guests into the community like anyone else. “I have seen coffee served in a cafe with as much deference to actively hallucinating psychotics as to anyone else,” one observer described. Not surprisingly, people with mental illness flourish in Geel.
“I’ve learned more about God from the tears of homeless women than any . . . systematic theology books ever taught me,” said Shane Claiborne, explaining what drew him to sharing life in community with the poor. His words take me back to the first time I attended a church service in a poverty and violence-stricken neighborhood in Chicago. During the service, several people stood up to testify of their grief and longing for their community’s healing. As we prayed and worshiped with a depth I had never experienced, I realized that I too was broken and deeply in need of this kind of community—where pain is freely shared and together we encounter the One who meets us in our brokenness.
Ever wanted to live like a monk? Thirty-four young adults did, accepting an offer from the Archbishop of Canterbury to embrace a countercultural, monastic way of life for ten months. From varied nations and denominations, the group formed a community that studied the Scriptures, prayed, and served together. At the end of their time, one participant stated, “We’ve spent time growing in intimacy with God, learning from Jesus and listening to the Holy Spirit.”
A Chinese couple, a South Korean couple, and my Mongolian friend and I had the privilege of praying together every morning for nearly an entire year. This experience brought us together in unity as brothers and sisters in Jesus, made us more aware of the glimpses of truth He had placed in each of our cultures, and gave us strength and boldness to be light to those around us. It was a sweet taste of the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17.
Sarah sometimes wonders if she only believes in Jesus because she’s surrounded by family and friends who also do. She asked, “Am I a Christian because it’s true or because I live in a Christian bubble?”
A young man had been fleeing from the law, and his concerned father tried desperately to reach him. When his son finally called from a city far away, the dad convinced him to turn himself in and even took a flight to retrieve him. As he later described the trip to friends, the loving father said with unmistakable warmth, “He’s my son!”
The sound of her name made me recoil. I knew the strong testimony of the well-known speaker and had no justifiable reason to avoid her podcasts. My disgust had nothing to do with her or the worthy cause she represented. I’d been hurt by someone who idolized her, so my prejudice came because of her association with that individual.
Starting as dancing droplets on the windshield, the rain increased in intensity as we drove down the road. My husband turned on the windshield wipers but then quickly turned them off. He did this over and over. When I looked at him quizzically, he explained that the passenger side wiper had stopped moving in sync with the one on the driver’s side. Turning them on long enough for both to move would have resulted in them striking against each other.
The deaf community at the midsize American church was struggling. Two of their most faithful members had died. Their longtime interpreter was retiring, and the church was changing pastors.
A group of churches in our city came together to do a neighborhood cleanup. The shared project went so well that they now exchange choirs and praise bands and have multichurch picnics. Oh sure, there are things they disagree on. But to them, Jesus is a reason for unity.
Jean Vanier was an accomplished naval officer who had recently completed a PhD, and whose family oozed with prestige (his father had been the Governor General of Canada). Yet, living in the small French village of Trosly-Breuil, Vanier was alone and downhearted. His pastor encouraged him to invite two disabled men to live with him, and L’Arche (communities where disabled and those who Vanier calls “temporarily-abled” share friendship and life together) was born. Fifty years later, L’Arche communities exist around the world.
The 2013 film Frozen tells the story of a troubled princess named Elsa who possessed a special gift—the power to create ice and snow. We’re not talking about making iced tea. No—with a flick of the wrist, this princess could unleash a blizzard that would instantly turn a warm summer day into a cold winter wonderland.