Anita was born and raised in Fayetteville, Arkansas, a small town that had always been a warm, safe, and fun place in her eyes.
It wasn’t until her final year in college that she saw a completely different side of the city most familiar to her.
As she entered into the home of one of her students during a home visit, she was shaken by the covered windows, dark rooms and cigarette smoke soaked couches, and the myriad of air mattresses scattered on stained carpet.
This was not the Fayetteville she grew up in. The place most familiar to her suddenly became a total stranger — how did she miss this?
Unfortunately, Anita’s story applies to most people — living life in one reality without awareness of another.
Think about the layout of most cities in America: the suburbs over here, the inner city over there. How many times have you heard specific areas described as “safe” and “not safe,” “nice” and “bad?”
We’ve heard it time and time again that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves… what if our “neighbors” doesn’t just mean the people who live next door?
James 2:8-10 has a word about this: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”
Anita and her husband take seriously the command to love others without showing partiality.
They changed their vocations and habits, as well as risked security and comfort in pursuit of obedience. And God blessed it.
Potter’s House began as a casual weekly small group of several neighborhood kids.
Through word of mouth, the small group grew a little bit, then grew a little bit more, then split into two groups, and so on.
Today, the small groups program is lead by 3 staff members and governs over 13 groups of children in Kindergarten through 12th grade.
And small groups is only a fraction of the organization. Potter’s House includes an after-school tutoring program called Academy, a preschool called Wet Cement, several adult small groups, mentorship, a leadership development program for high school students, and a thrift store.
These programs build fellowship across socio-economic, racial, and cultural lines, blending two polar realities into one.
There is so much that is lost when people within one community live in their own separate bubbles. Diversity is a requirement for human flourishing because there is so much to learn from different people with different perspectives.
One volunteer tutor in the Academy program said, “I started working with Potter’s House trying to learn to have a servant’s heart, but those kids and families have served and spoken to me more than my heart could have imagined!”
These words capture the experience of countless individuals involved in Potter’s House and reminds me of Paul’s words in Romans 12:4-6,“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
Everyone is made in the image of God; everyone has unique gifts to serve the body.
When the body of believers lives and operates in cliques and bubbles, the whole church suffers.
Through opportunities to connect across cultural barriers that Potter’s House provides, discrimination is diminished, humility is fostered, and lifelong friendships are born.
Potter’s House is a beautiful picture of a healthy community and the impact that community has for the Kingdom of God. It is a blessing to the Fayetteville community and even beyond.
Yet, not every town has a “Potter’s House.” In many places, if we’re honest, it’s not so easy to spend time with people who are different than us. But that shouldn’t surprise you, Believer, because God calls us to challenging things (and for our good!).
So, what does this all mean for you?
How do you, Believer, love your neighbor as yourself?
Reflect over your social life: your friends, co-workers, mentors/mentees, etc. Do they fall under your socio-economic status? What about your race? Political views?
Chances are the people we spend the most time with are similar to ourselves.
However, God does call us to a different way — to be pursuers of diversity and warriors for peace. To usher in heaven unto earth as it’s described in Revelation 7:9, “behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.”
Confess your failure to live up to this call and ask God to help you.
Maybe your heart is willing and you need to ask God to provide avenues and connections for you to follow through in obedience. Maybe you need to ask God to soften your heart towards the idea of diversity and increase your passion for a healthy and diverse community.
Whatever your need, God hears you. He helps you. And He lavishes His grace upon you.