Did you know that we’re 99.9% the same?

Did you know that we’re 99.9% the same?

Studies have shown that genetically there is no more than 0.1% that separates one human being from another, no matter how different we may look.

Zero point one percent.

Think of any person on any corner of the planet. Yes, even that tribe on the most distant island in the middle of the ocean. And, yes, even that awkward guy sitting opposite you at work who hums to himself.

You have 99.9% or more in common with them.

But over history people have been persecuted, enslaved, murdered, and discriminated against because of the 0.1%.

As humanity, we need to hang our heads in shame over this. And then we need to ask, why?

Most of us would say we like diversity, but in reality we want it out there, not in our homes, our neighbourhoods, or even, our churches.

Why do we want diversity out there but not in here?

It’s got a lot to do with prejudice: pre-judging someone, wanting them to fit a stereotype that we have of a group of people. So that when we see someone who walks that way, or talks that way, or has that accent, we can put them neatly in a box.  We do this either because we ‘those’ fear the people, or we want to be better than ‘those’ people.

Fear and pride drive prejudice in our lives.

So when you drive through that community, what are you thinking? Are you feeling uncomfortable?

I caught the train recently and by mistake climbed onto the third class carriage, and I looked around half way through the trip and thought, I’m the only white guy here. I had a good chuckle. God has done so much in my heart that I no longer felt the discomfort I would’ve felt  a couple of years, months, or even, weeks ago.

This is normal. This is South Africa. I am a minority. And that is ok.

But when we’re speaking about diversity it’s not just about race, it includes things like class, age, gender, and education.

When you drive through rich, fancy areas and you look at those cars and those houses, do you think, “What wasteful people! How could they spend this much money on a house when…?”

We look at anybody else and to puff ourselves up, we have to bring them down, to fit them in a box.

What must God think of us when we despise the very diversity He created? Diversity was intended for beauty, but we have perverted it by making it a cause for division.

If Jesus in his earthly form walked into this room, how would I treat him?

How would I treat a homeless man in robes with long, scraggly hair, which is probably what Jesus would’ve looked like?

He probably wouldn’t have had very good teeth. With no dental care at the time, it is likely he didn’t have a toothpaste commercial smile.

Would I have given him the time of day?

And yet that’s the form that God chose to reveal himself to the world.

In his poem Diversity’s Symphony, David Bowden says:

“How did we get so far off from the truth that now a poor, dark-skinned, unattractive, Israeli-Jew would have better luck dying for our sins than fitting in on our pews?”

This really challenged me to the core of my being.

A few months ago when we were doing Alpha at a Common Ground congregation, sitting at one table was a guy who’d previously owned a night club and was now living on the street, a Rastafarian, a man with a mental illness, and a blind 75-year-old woman; all in one space getting around God’s word.

What was uniting them together was far greater than what was separating them.

In Colossians 3 it speaks to this in a beautiful way. It says, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”

When Jesus died he didn’t look at the socio-economic differences of people. He looked at ‘those’ people and said: “I’m going to die for this group.” He looked at ‘your’ people and said: “I’m going to die for this group.”

He died for all of us, because we are all sinful.

My challenge to you is to develop a humble curiosity. When you meet someone and you’re focusing on the 0.1% have the humble curiosity to find out more about them.

A humble curiosity says I want to find out more about you so that I can honour you better, not so that I can focus on the 0.1% but so I can focus on what we have in common.

Ask God to give you a love for people. It’s not something that necessarily comes naturally.

Recognise when you’re not treating a person as an individual. If in your interaction you’re putting a person in a box, ask God to convict you in that moment.

Over the next few weeks at Common Ground Church, we’re tackling the topic of diversity because we want  to catch a greater glimpse of God’s heart for diversity; in the Gospel, in our own lives and within the church.

We’re going to be challenging a few thousand people to create diversity wherever they go, fuelled by the gospel and the conviction that what God has done for us unites us in a way that no other political scheme or feel-good movement ever could.

We hope that you will journey with us as we grapple with this by sharing your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments section on this blog.

Has God stirred anything in your heart while reading this?

This post was written by
Richard works full-time for Common Good as the city impact manager and team leader. He also serves on the Common Ground Wynberg leadership team, which he attends with his wife and three children.

8 Comments on "Did you know that we’re 99.9% the same?"

  • Natascha says

    Thanks Richard! This is a powerful message and it needs to be heard! I feel myself cringing when I recognize how often the 0.1% difference is the only thing I can see…

  • Anne Ford says

    Powerful and unexpected

  • Ah, this is so wonderful to read! I’m so excited about this series, because it’s a topic that usually gets brushed off, especially in church. It’s so close to God’s heart and given the history of our country, it should be equally close to ours. As Rigby said on Sunday, diversity should be celebrated, not tolerated :) Great article!

  • Michelle Camis says

    Richard,
    This is so thoughtful and beautifully written, but quite condeming. I think of myself as loving others and diversity, but had to take a real look at that after the Sunday’s message and your words. I have some personal work to do, but think it is worth every second to heal my own prejudices and expand my compassion to all beings.

    Thank you, Blessings, Michelle

  • Jess Lerm says

    Can I ask what resources were used here please? If I remember correctly, according to the landmark study by Nei & Roychoudhury, we’re not 99- but 85% similar.
    85% is, of course, still a large similarity, and good enough to support the point you ultimately want to make. But it doesn’t hurt to fact-check :)

  • Hey Rich.
    Knowing that we’re 99.9% the same, it changes everything. I strongly believe that God is reshaping His Church and His people in the City of Cape Town to embrace diversity in light of the Gospel. I know it’s hard work for many of us, but the good news is that God is not in a rush to see our hearts transformed in this area, He will do it little by little, as we continue to trust Him.
    Bless you Pastor Rich.

  • Zola says

    So encouraged that the Church (and church) is talking about this and seeking God’s wisdom. I believe that it’s on God’s heart and that many people will find healing and come to salvation when they hear the hope that’s available for every nation!

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