Back when I was in seminary everybody told me I was going to hate Greek. They told me that if I wasn’t good at Math I wouldn’t be good at Greek, and I wasn’t good at Math, not at all. But in those days you had to take Greek, like it or not, so I decided I was going to take it and like it. In fact, I decided I was going to love it.
And I did.
I ended up taking five semesters of Greek, and one semester I translated the entire Book of Revelation. But I’m almost sure that wouldn’t have happened if I had approached the class in fear and trembling, certain that I was going to hate Greek.
So, what if I do the same thing with people?
What if, instead of avoiding people who are different from me, I seek them out? What if I realize how much I could learn from someone who has grown up in a different country or culture, someone who speaks a foreign language or looks at things in the opposite way? In other words, instead of hating people who are different from me, what if I made up my mind to love them, just as I made up my mind to love Greek? Would that help to bring heaven to earth in Richmond or anywhere else?
I’m still thinking about the lecture I heard on Thursday night, where Ben Campbell speculated that many of the problems we face in Richmond today are a direct result of racism, that instead of loving and respecting people whose skin is a different color we have tended to avoid them or, worse, hate them and hurt them. How much of that is a state of mind? And how much of that did we get from someone who told us, “You’re going to hate those people”? What if we said, “No, we’re not,” and simply made up our minds to love people who are different from us, no matter what?
Try this simple exercise: next time you see someone who is different from you–and I mean in any way: race, class, gender, orientation, political party–think, “I love those people,” and see what happens. No, seriously: try it. Make up your mind and see if your heart will follow. I’ve tried it myself and I have felt the difference. I’ve felt the learned fear and suspicion turn into warmth and acceptance. It’s as if someone flipped a switch.
You may say that’s simplistic, impossible, idealistic, but I say this:
I got an “A” in Greek.