Excerpt from James 1:17-27 (Good News Bible)
"Every good gift and every perfect present…comes down from God."
Reflection by William C. Green
Christ is not named in today's text about good gifts coming from God. "Bring many names," wrote Brian Wren in his popular hymn. Finding God through difference and many names is a great gift in a world of differences. Rushing to such unity by selling out our differences stands in the way.
A verse in the Qur'an says of God (Allah), "I created you different so that you might know one another" (49:3) - not just be acquainted with one another, not just enjoy or agree with one another. But "know one another," and precisely through what makes us different, not similar.
Differences are easily glossed over. I live in a multicultural apartment complex. Recently a sign appeared in the elevators inviting residents to a gathering for peace and love on the lawn outside on Monday evenings. The invitation said "Zoroastrians, Baha'i, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jainists - Join Together to Pray for Peace and Love."
I didn't know Zoroastrians existed anymore. They, too, were to share something from their tradition about the beauty of unity. As I expected, it all sounded the same, with lonely flute accompaniment from a You Tube channel wafting in the evening breeze.
I was asked to choose the next week's topic. I picked "conflict." This was not welcome but the group went along. We talked about living with religious and political difference in another culture, like right here in the U.S. The flute music stopped. We each opened up. After saying more about ourselves we got into a central teaching of Bahaullah, the founder of the Bahai faith:
the "principles of consultation," a procedure with broad application for investigating truth as seen by all sides, avoiding the coercion of consensus, and practicing steps that deal head-on with conflict, including the deadliest.
I thank God again for the gift of difference. It's the chance to know one another and ourselves a whole lot better. It's the path to peace.
Thank you, God, for creating each of us unique and different. Amen.