One of the good things about the TV coverage of the Olympics has been the interviews with family and friends back in Britain – medal winning athletes are seen as ordinary people like us.
Last night it was gymnast Max Whitlock. At his gymnastics club in Basildon children, teenagers and adults, ordinary people from all walks of life, come together, work together, support each other….
We live in a world that emphasises differences – politics, colour, sexuality, beliefs, religion, age, looks… ‘those who aren’t like me’…
I grew up with ‘Mods and Rockers’ in the 60s; people who were the same age, dressed the same, had similar hair styles, liked the same music, chose a particular make of scooter or motor bike. Their identified with those like them; they were opposed to ‘those who aren’t like me’…
Black Lives Matter protests, Gay Pride rallies… the Brexit referendum and general elections… We’ve become more convinced that we’re right; we’re less accepting and understanding of ‘those who aren’t like me’.
The church is often just as guilty – preaching an uncompromising truth; judging and condemning those who don’t agree and conform; talking about ‘loving your neighbour’ but not loving ‘those who aren’t like me’.
We find comfort and security in those who are like us… our age, class, colour, interests… children, teenagers, young mums, pensioners… successful and comfortable, unemployed and poor… ignoring or criticising ‘those who aren’t like me’.
Yet as I look at Jesus, the heart of my Christian faith, I see one who ate with tax collectors, was a friend of prostitutes, welcomed children, deliberately met the ‘unclean’, the foreigner, the outsider or alienated – specifically ‘those who aren’t like me’.
I’m encouraged by the Basildon gymnastics club… those who are different can be brought together.
And the church, the family of Jesus, should be an example of attracting, welcoming, bringing together and supporting people who are different – ‘those who aren’t like me’.