Business analyst Francis Evans once studied 125 insurance salesmen to find out what made them successful. Surprisingly, competence wasn’t the key factor. Instead, Evans found customers were more likely to buy from salesmen with the same politics, education, and even height as them. Scholars call this homophily: the tendency to prefer people like us.
Homophily is at work in other areas of life too, with us tending to marry and befriend people similar to us. While natural, homophily can be destructive when left unchecked. When we only prefer “our kind” of people, society can fracture along racial, political, and economic lines.
In the first century, Jews stuck with Jews, Greeks with Greeks, and rich and poor never mingled. And yet, in Romans 16:1–16, Paul could describe the church in Rome as including Priscilla and Aquila (Jewish), Epenetus (Greek), Phoebe (a “benefactor of many,” so probably wealthy), and Philologus (a name common for slaves). What had brought such different people together? Jesus—in whom there’s “neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free” (Galatians 3:28).
It’s natural to want to live, work, and go to church with people like us. Jesus pushes us beyond that. In a world fracturing along various lines, He’s making us a people who are different together—united in Him as one family.