Embracing Our Differences

Yael Eckstein  |  November 10, 2022

Adult men hugging

Her ways are pleasant ways,
    and all her paths are peace. —
Proverbs 3:17

Peace, shalom, is a paramount value for both Christians and Jews. Explore this elusive attribute through my devotions and what we can learn about adding it to our lives, our relationships, and our world.

According to the Jewish tradition, there are three symbols for peace: the river, the bird, and the kettle.

A river was traditionally used as a means of connection between one town and another. It was a way for people to do business with each other and meet one another. A river is also, of course, a source of life for people, their livestock, and their crops.

A bird makes its home on land but can fly high up in the sky. It lives in both heaven and earth as it travels between the two.

The kettle takes two opposing forces and brings them together to create something good. Fire wants to boil away water; water seeks to extinguish a fire. However, when a kettle comes between them, both thrive and together they create a substance that contributes to mankind.

What we learn from all three symbols is that peace does not mean sameness. The two towns do not merge. They share a river. Heaven and earth, the spiritual and material worlds, are harmonized within the bird who lives in both, yet they remain two separate realms. Finally, water and fire reach their higher purpose so long as they remain separated by the kettle.

Embracing Our Differences

We see this same lesson in Proverbs’ description of wisdom in God’s Word: “Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.”

The verse describes multiple paths within the wisdom of the Bible. It does not say “Her way is pleasant, and her path is peace,” in the singular. In other words, the pleasantness and peace that we find in God’s Word depends on our recognition that there are multiple paths and multiple ways included in it.

God does not want us all to be identical. He created each of us as a unique individual with our own strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. We must embrace our own path in service to God while also respecting that the paths of others will be different from our own. Then we can appreciate the unique contribution that each of us brings to God’s kingdom. Embracing our differences leads the way to true peace.

Your Turn:

What is your greatest strength? How can you use what makes you unique to serve God? Think about ways that others in your family or community serve God. Let someone know you appreciate the way they serve God differently from you.

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