Beth served as the leader of an anti-sex trafficking ministry. She was young, passionate, idealistic and smart. Beth went into brothels to rescue sex slaves. She met with local police and government officials. Her highly competent, high output personality was well suited for her unique role.
But Beth did not conform to the “Christian bubble” norms. She was brash, loud and not afraid to confront. Her view on women leaders was also not popular in her context. And Beth did have her blind spots. She stomped on a lot of toes. People were hurt and left the ministry.
So, it didn’t take long for Beth to run into difficulty. She did try to conform but she could not sustain it. It just wasn’t her. She soon found herself excluded from activities. Very reasonable excuses were always given, but still she was left out.
Unlike others in the ministry, Mary took time to get to know and understand Beth. It was not always easy, but it turned out to be a refreshing pleasure. While she came across very strong and intimidating, Beth actually had a very soft, tender underbelly. As she got to know Beth better, Mary found her extremely kind and compassionate, more gracious than anyone else she knew in her town. You had to get close to see it, but she was a very caring person. She didn’t pretend, so Mary was quite comfortable with her authenticity. They often disagreed but their relationship was strong enough to bear the differences. They debated and discussed many things and Mary became the wiser for it. Beth sharpened her in ways others around her could not because of their very interesting discussions.
Soon Beth bumped up against other leaders. And the typical scenario ensued. Mediation was tried, but the “writing was on the wall”. Her world was too small to absorb someone who was so different, and seemingly not “of the same mind.” Beth eventually resigned.
Mary was sad as she witnessed this all-to-familiar scenario. Saying nothing with deafening silence, pushing away to avoid conflict or demanding cookie-cutter similarity were not the directions God wanted her to go. Instead, Mary understood and practiced the Apostle Paul’s injunction to “be of the same mind”. While she didn’t always agree with Beth nor was she able to change the outcome, she had the “mindset of Christ”. She valued Beth and looked to her interests (Phil 2:3-5). She put aside her own discomfort and sought to know Beth, hear her heart and acknowledge her beauty and her unique contribution to the work of the Lord.
How can you have the mindset of Christ toward someone who is “different”?
Lord God, I know that every situation is very complex and I never know all the factors that cause a conflict like you do. Help me not to judge but rather to be wiling to have your mindset when I see conflict. Teach me to make that extra effort to come alongside someone that rubs me the wrong way and truly seek to understand them. It will probably be messy and uncomfortable, but teach me to value others and look to their interests. Help me to not be intimidated by differences but to reach out in love.