Recently, Heineken beer company produced a five-minute commercial titled, “Worlds Apart.” Far from the usual beer sales pitch, this commercial offers a different kind of message—one that frankly I think would make the world a better place. (Even typing those words feels a bit cheesy … but hang with me.)
The commercial is not about a newfound social status or getting that person who is way out of our league. In fact, the commercial is not even about drinking. It’s about something much closer to home—understanding.
(OK, before we get going here—a quick disclaimer: This article is not about whether Christians should drink alcohol or not. It’s not about the dangers of alcohol consumption upon our witness for Christ. It is, however, about taking a valuable lesson from a secular company—one that just happens to be a beer company.)
The premise of the commercial is simple—what would happen if we get two complete strangers with completely opposing views (and in some cases highly emotional views) together, and have them get to know each other first without knowing their differences? Moreover, after discovering their differences, would they choose to walk away or engage one another in a discussion?
At the beginning of the commercial, the viewer is privy to the underlying differences of opinion between the pairs—difference of opinion over feminism, transgender issues and climate change. Each pair is given a series of projects to complete. After each project, the participants answer a series of questions that reveal who they are—as people. One set of questions, for example, asked the participants to describe themselves using five adjectives. Some of the adjectives used were strong, ambitious, attacked, misunderstood, opinionated, frustrating and dedicated.
The captivating aspect of this commercial is that two complete strangers are guided through a process of discovery—not of what the other person believes, but who they are. They share their hurts, their journey and even information they have not told many others. During the conversation, in a moment of clarity, one participant remarks, “We know each other better than people who have known each other for ten minutes should.” As the commercial progresses, the viewer begins to see both participants as people, not issues.
Suddenly, a voice comes over the loud speaker breaking the moment. The voice invites them to watch a movie. Projected on the wall is a video interview of the pair sharing their opinion on the emotionally charged subject. The pair is given a choice—you can walk away or you can sit down and have a beer and discuss the subject. (You’ll have to watch the commercial to see what happens.)
The powerful message of this experiment centers around this question: What would happen if you got to know the person first before the issue? In other words, how might getting to know the person as a person change the exchange we have? Sadly, for many of us “the other” is not a person with a journey, dreams, hopes and fears. They are an argument to win—something (or someone) to conquer.
So, what might we learn from a beer commercial?
Do Not Judge
The pairs in this experiment are opposites on a number of foundational issues—yet by being vulnerable and sharing about themselves as people, there was an instant empathy and trust that developed—regardless of their backgrounds and presuppositions.
What would we do if we were in that room? Would we judge the other, letting them know we do not condone or agree with their lifestyle? Would we pass judgment? After all, many believe it is our job to be the moral compass of society, even for those who do not believe in Jesus as Lord.
In Jesus’ teaching, He would often bring up a common idea of the day and then turn the idea upside down. And that’s exactly what He did in the Sermon on the Mount when He told those listening, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
When we take a position of judgment, we often assume a position of authority—perhaps even one of superiority. We come to make a point, a proclamation. We often assume that we know more about the other person’s situation, circumstances and opinions than we probably do. The question here is one of position—from what kind of position do we enter discourse? Is it one of fear? Authority? Superiority? Or love?
What is portrayed through the interactions of the participants is not a position of judgment—but rather one of understanding first. At the end, the participants have an opportunity to stay and talk about their differences or to leave. My hunch is that without a personal connection, without knowing the person as a person, they would most likely walk away or at best enter a heated discussion. Yet the most amazing thing happens—all three pairs decide to stay, talk, listen and even to exchange phone numbers in order to keep in contact.
What might happen if our discussions with others with whom we disagree begin from this position, rather than one that is literally hell-bent on making a point. What if we listen? What if we share? What if we get to know the person behind the so-called issue?
Choosing My Perspective
As we look at the life of Jesus, we cannot help but notice that He spent much time with those whom the religious and political leaders would not associate with because they judged “those sinners.” Jesus spent time with thieves, adulterers, prostitutes and those who were unclean. He spent time with those on the margins, those in the shadows. Nowhere in the New Testament do we see Jesus meeting someone like a prostitute or thief and the first thing was Him saying, “You need to change—or you’ll go to hell!”
What we do see, however, is Jesus going to Levi the Tax Collector saying, tonight I am coming over. Levi, also known as Matthew, was so excited that he invited his friends over to meet Jesus. On another occasion, an unclean woman risked her already low social standing because she wanted Jesus to heal her. Concerning a son who had been possessed by an unclean spirit, Jesus asked the father if he had faith. The man replied that he did, but asked Jesus to help him with his unbelief. Note that Jesus never admonished him for his doubt. These are the types of people Jesus interacted with. These are the kinds of discussions he had. All throughout the Gospels, people—especially those who were not religious—flocked to Jesus. With that in mind, perhaps we should ask ourselves some difficult questions:
- Do those with opposing political views seek us out for advice and wisdom?
- Are those who are struggling with their sexual identity comfortable to share their story with us?
- Do atheists or agnostics respect our convictions for Christ?
- Would the girl in our church who is thinking about having an abortion or had an abortion come to us for comfort and direction?
- Would we feel comfortable having a conversation or befriending a feminist?
Seeking to Understand—Then Be Understood
I love the local church. I love followers of Jesus. But if I am completely honest, it is easy for me to settle in the comfort of my bubble or my routine and not think about those outside the walls of the church. Perhaps the best thing we can learn from a beer commercial is to be intentional about creating relationships with those we may not agree with—whether they are outside the faith or whether they are within the faith.
After all, have you ever sat down with a LGBTQ person and just heard their story, simply because they are created in the image of God and loved by Him? How might discussions like these change our perspective? What doors might be opened if we seek to understand before trying to be understood?
The best option is building bridges, creating relationships and asking God to lead us by His Holy Spirit. Who knows? We mind end up with a new friend, a new perspective and an open door.
After twenty years in the church and university worlds, Bryan A. Sands has accepted the call of Lead Pastor at Kaimuki Christian Church in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is the author of, Everyone Loves Sex: So Why Wait? (A Discussion in Sexual Faithfulness). You can learn more about the book at EveryoneLovesSex.org. Bryan and his wife, Caz, have three daughters.