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Pastor and “beloved community” organizer Leroy Barber explains the importance of overcoming barriers to healthy relationships with people whom we perceive as different from us.

We humans … are made in the image of that triune God. And while the imago Dei in us has many aspects, it’s clear that we are relational beings…. We cannot help but function in community, and when we’re not in community, we suffer consequences. We were made to be together, and that’s by God’s design. Human flourishing requires that we establish, mend, and maintain relationships with other people.

Jesus exemplified and taught that those loving relationships ought to cross culture’s artificial boundaries of politics, ethnicity, nationality, gender, and socioeconomic status. But in our world today, we have become adept at erecting and fortifying these barriers. We live in the most individualistic society in history, and when we do interact with others, we do our best to make sure that those people look, talk, think, and behave just as we do. These tendencies may keep us in our comfort zones, but they are antithetical to God’s will for us. They are the enemy of God’s plan of redemption and relationship, and they keep us distant from one another and ultimately from the one who created us. [1]

Is it possible for us to see each other the way God sees us instead of through our biases? The truth is that God doesn’t see people the way we do, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves and others that our way is the Creator’s way. In God’s eyes, each and every person is a bearer of [God’s] image. Each is a special creation, each is loved, each is in need of God’s love and forgiveness….

As ambassadors for the kingdom of God, we need to begin to see others as Christ does—as people in need of the same divine love, mercy, and grace that has been extended to us. [3]

[1] Leroy Barber, Embrace: God’s Radical Shalom for a Divided World (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2016), 51.

[3] Barber, Embrace, 52.