This past Sunday I had a new and different experience. I went to a funeral, but that was not the part that was new and different.
Unfortunately, like many of you, I have been to numerous funerals in my life. However this one was different. Not because of my relationship with the deceased, because you see I had never had the honor of meeting this gentleman before his death from cancer.
No, it wasn't going to the funeral, or my connection to the deceased that was different. What was different was that when the funeral started I was the person standing behind the podium. This was the first time I had ever had the opportunity to have any role in a funeral, much less lead one. I thought it was a beautiful service, which I can say because it wasn't anything that I did to make it so. This man, Loyd Wood, had written everything he had wanted to be said at his funeral. My role was to read his words to his friends and family (which by the way was harder than you might think- it's not easy reading the personal words of a deceased man to his widow sitting in front of you).
What made it so special for me is because the family didn't just draw my name out of a hat, or pick me from a list. They called me and asked me to have a part in saying Goodbye to their loved one. I was shocked when I got the call. But more than that, I was honored. I used to work with Mr. Wood's daughter before she took another job and we had become pretty good friends. I would say that it's not terribly unusual, to be friends with someone you work with. What makes it unusual are the differences that separate us.
If you recall, I'm fairly conservative. In fact, I was introduced as an "ultra-Conservative, Bible-thumping, Baptist that makes a typical conservative look liberal" on Sunday after the service. And that's pretty spot on. I make no apologies for that, and I have no intentions on changing that anytime soon. So what provides the twist to this story is that my friend, who asked me to speak at her Daddy's funeral, is a homosexual.
Now that makes things significantly more interesting doesn't it?
To say that we have different views on things would be an understatement. After all, remember my reputation as an ultra-Conservative...
But we're friends.
It's a sort of odd relationship that we have. It's one that confounds some (many) of my friends (and probably hers too). It's confounding, puzzling, and even comical, but it works. You see, we are able to value each other without degrading each other. We both have strong views that won't be changing, but we can also see past that. No one has compromised any of their core beliefs to befriend the other. The only thing that has been comprised has been stereotypes.
The concept is possibly mind-boggling to you, even many of you, but I would say it is a clear Biblical concept. After all, look at Jesus. He hung out with all types of folks, including the "down and outs" of society. He even took quite a bit of heat from the religious elite for his relationships with others. But that didn't stop Him, it won't stop me, and it shouldn't stop you.
What if each one of us moved past the "label" that society has given us (or that we've taken upon ourselves), to befriend someone. Whether I (or you) are liberal, conservative, atheist, moderate, homosexual, Bible-thumper, Mormon, Gun-toter, pro-choice, pro-life, cat lover, vegan, Democrat, Republican, Flying Spaghetti Monster followers, we're all people.
Because we're all people, we're all valuable.
(Remember that word? It'll be a recurring theme in posts to come).
Sometimes we get all hung up on the label of a person, and forget that they're people. People that we should be loving, not shunning. No matter which side of an issue you are on we should be able to move past the labels at some point to befriend each other.
Because it's the people, not the labels, that really matter.
And people are valuable.
All of them.
Even when they are "different" than you.