This morning I attended a service in Costa Rica. It’s not our church, but one I sometimes visit. The congregation is English-speaking, Afro-Caribbean. They have a strong island accent. I was one of a few white people in the congregation.
As usual, they greeted me warmly.
Our home church is Latin American and Spanish-speaking. We go to one of the lightly attended services, and we are two white faces among 100 Latinos. And they always treat us as family.
I could go on: Romanian churches, where I knew almost nothing of the language; an African American church in Philly; campesino rural churches in Costa Rica; churches in a communist land, where every billboard and TV news program proclaim that they should hate me because I’m from the USA. 
Different languages, cultures, colors. Yet they make me, a minority, feel at home.
This is miraculous, Spirit-inspired, Christian love.
Brain specialists and sociologists have now shown that people automatically gravitate toward those who look like them. Like feels comfortable with like, uncomfortable with different. So whether we realize it or not, our brains push us to clump together with people like ourselves.
But in the end, what does it matter? Because God is a mighty God; and the Spirit is not limited by our hard wiring. Therefore, like Samson on his better days, we people of the new birth can and must stretch to breaking the dictates of our brain chemistry.
Those who authentically walk in the Holy Spirit love don’t just run to their friends – they stand on tip-toe, trying to spot people who look isolated, confused, friendless, disconnected, and make a beeline to them.
Lord, I surely hope that when I’m in a group, surrounded by friends, in the racial and cultural majority, that I make “the unlike” feel as welcomed as these brothers and sisters make me.
 By the way, I am very much aware that my positive experiences might be due to the fact that I run in circles in which white people are seen positively. Were I a black man in an all-white American church; a Chinese or Nicaraguan person in a Costa Rican church; a biker covered in tattoos; a farmer in a sophisticated upper middle-class church; then perhaps their acceptance of me would be the heartier miracle. It’s a good way to test how supernaturally loving we are, not when we are tolerant of the favored Other, but of the disfavored.
The Sheep and the Goats on Sunday Morning
The Forgotten Sign of the End Times: Icy Relations among God’s People
Fake Fruits Sole Here – as Cheap as they Come
“The Holy Spirit is not limited by our brain chemistry,” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San Jose, Costa Rica
That’s what made the first church so different from every other religion that had been around. Rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, men and women, all part of one body. Great article!
This post is excellent, Gary. Good words, truth … just a very encouraging read. I love everything about it.
Della, hi, and thanks! It’s been a while!
After hearing a powerful message on having real compassion to those who are very different, I find this post quite helpful in identifying *how* to grow that compassion. Thanks for writing it.