I was definitely taught the principle of “stranger danger” as a child, but I don’t think we used that term in my home. So, when my college-age daughter used that term recently to warn a friend, it made me smile. I didn’t expect to hear that from a 19-year-old, but the phrase also made me think…
In the last 18 months, I’ve had an unusual journey of walking in a lot of new spaces. As our hearts have continued to beat for racial reconciliation, I’ve begun to have more conversations with African Americans about their journey. I’ve listened mostly. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve gained new perspectives. In one specific conversation, I began to understand the “why” behind some of their fears, frustrations, and responses.
On a somewhat parallel level, I’ve also been on a spiritual journey that has introduced me to different types of churches that I’ve not experienced before. Again, in an uncanny way, I’m finding that personal conversations bring clarity to what might have previously been a misconception or stereotype I’ve held. Simultaneously, those I’m in conversation with have learned that people like me aren’t so scary either!
Is there true stranger danger? Of course… but our culture has taught us to see anyone different as our enemy. We’ll demonize someone who chooses to vote differently than us. (I recently overheard someone say, “If they vote for XXX, I don’t think I could be their friend.”) Please, I beg you: Don’t be that person! Ask questions. Seek understanding. You don’t have to agree with everyone to love them.
Christian topics are not exempt. We’ll choose not to love our Christian neighbor over theological differences that have been debated for centuries. We’ll choose not to spend time with someone who has a different perspective than ours.
How can we be a positive influence in the world if we see danger in everyone who’s different than us? How can we bring hope if we only huddle with people of the same race, political view, or theological grid?
Keep your kids safe, but also realize that the greater danger most of us face is hardening our hearts from loving people who are not like us.
I encourage you to invite someone different than you to coffee over this coming week and have a meaningful conversation where you ask questions in order to learn… and then simply listen.