If we are to bridge the gap between us and them, we must recognize that which is the same, and that which is different. We began with what is the same — we are all precious, of infinite value. The next two foundational truths are also things which we share, but paradoxically, they make us different. We share the need to recognize all three. But the second and third highlight the ways in which we are different.
We’ve already examined it so the length the first, the central foundational truth: you are precious, of infinite value. And what is true of you is true of everyone. Without this fundamental understanding, we will devalue each other and ourselves, and our interactions will — despite the best of intentions — devolve into manipulation and abuse.
The second foundational truth, which we all need, and which we all share is that you are unique: incomparable and unrepeatable. As you can see, there’s a paradox about saying each of us shares the characteristic of being unique. Another way of saying it is that one major thing we have in common is that we are different.
CS Lewis said that, “There is not enough time and space for the infinite one to express himself completely, once. How shall he repeat himself?” If God makes each snowflake unique, surely he invests as much in each one of us for whom his son died. Beyond that, there is one of the most misunderstood texts in the Bible, John 3:8.
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
Note who it is whose actions are unpredictable: everyone born of the spirit. Look at that again. It is not the spirit itself which is being focused on here, but those who are born of the spirit. Another way putting that is that those who are in Christ are unique. Uniqueness is an indicator that we are indeed motivated by the Spirit. Sin, addiction, is monotonous, stereotypical. We can diagnose illness and disease precisely because it is predictable. On the contrary, creativity, part of our unique image of God within us remains totally unpredictable. That’s what Jesus is describing here. Those who are born of the spirit live creatively, live a dynamic existence in ways we cannot predict.
Interestingly enough, this was confirmed in that she previous chapter the Gospel of John, at the Wedding of Cana. Once Mary has drawn Jesus’ attention to the lack of wine, she gives instructions to the servants. “Do whatever he tells you,” she says. She is wise enough to know that she cannot predict the creative ways in which the son of God, dwelling and indwelt with the spirit, will find to resolve this question.
Society, and all too often, the church as well, does not treasure uniqueness. Creativity can be frightening to an institution, and to those who run it. Rather than be unique and creative, most would prefer that we fit in. The Adversary knows that if we fully express our uniqueness, we will be powerful instruments of God’s grace. So he opposes it, and finds ways to mine the road to creativity with pain.
Your inherent value does not change. You are precious even before you are born, throughout your life, and in death your memory is precious. Your value never changes. Neither does your uniqueness. However, your Uniqueness may be more or less fully expressed. The pressure from society and others is almost always to suppress your uniqueness, to express less of it. God wants you to express it fully, because then you more fully reflect his glory and creativity.
If you have difficulty envisioning this, think about a beautiful diamond. Although there are several ways of cutting diamonds, each stone has its own unique properties. Think of your uniqueness as facets on that diamond. The more those facets which are cut and polished, the more beautiful the stone. But society wants to round off all of those beautiful facets, leaving the diamond a dull round pebble.
If we are going to bridge the gap between us and them, we must realize that each of us is unique, and that if we are to effectively communicate that they are precious, we will have to begin to appreciate their uniqueness, and thus their differences.
This is doubly difficult in a society which considers tolerance to be a virtue. Tolerance is not a virtue; respect and love are virtues. Tolerance, by definition, is a passive response to a negative stimulus. It is, if you will, passive aggressive dislike. Even in engineering, tolerance refers to allowable error. God does not want us to tolerate the differences between ourselves and others, does not want us to merely put up with the uniqueness he has given each one of his creatures, each one of his children. He wants us to celebrate it! This creative God has given each of his children unique attributes so that the universe may be enriched by the variety. For us to merely tolerate each other is to misunderstand God’s purposes, and failed to appreciate his great gifts to each of us, and to all of us.
Building and crossing the bridge between us and them will never be easy, but as we appreciate the glorious uniqueness God puts in each one of us, it can become a “joyously difficult” endeavor. That is what it is meant to be.