In this world where some are calling for harassment of those who have different views, let’s love anyway.
It’s a terrifically hard thing to do . . . and not everyone will choose to love us back.
In fact, if you’ve lived very long at all, you have probably encountered someone who doesn’t like you without reason. You may have been rejected. Likely you’ve been disrespected, probably you’ve been forgotten, and certainly you’ve felt unappreciated.
You may see some of those hard-to-get-along with folks today. You may work with them or be related to someone who has hurt you deeply.
In our day-to-day lives, we also encounter those who don’t see things the way we do politically, religiously, or culturally. There always seems to be the potential for conflict when we are around them or when we see their posts on social media.
Yep, we live among people who aren’t like us and who can be hard to like, much less love.
We all naturally gravitate to our favorites . . . our comfortable friends, our like-minded-sisters, our holy huddles where we are loved and valued, and can, without much effort, easily love back.
While those sweet, easy friendships refresh our souls, they are for times of refreshing, and they were never meant to be the places we exclusively stay.
Following Christ’s Example
I like my comfort zone, too, but as Christians, we are called to take the love of Christ to those who may not show it or know it. And oftentimes that’s not so much the foreign mission trip but may instead be the office or the family reunion.
Those who follow Jesus are called to patiently, relentlessly, graciously, actively interact with and love those who may never, ever agree with us or return our love, because that’s what Christ (who we are to model our lives after) did.
It’s not easy—oh no! It requires the Lord’s strength and not our own.
Over and over in Scripture, but also over and over in my life and the lives of others I observe, Jesus goes out of His way to take us through circumstances, to get through our heads, that we absolutely can’t do things in our own strength. Those circumstances may even include interacting with others who we disagree with or who have hurt us deeply in a loving way.
We can’t do it on our own. We can't. But get this—we weren't meant to do so.
From the very beginning, we were created for joyful dependence on the Rock, who is Christ the Lord.
Yes, we need Him for salvation and eternity; but we also need Him for the flesh-filled, people-related, struggles of this very day—this side of heaven.
And often the hardest struggles we can face in our lives involve other people. (Can I get an “amen”?)
Lost people. Wrong people. Mean people. Confused people. People who don’t think or act like we do. “Those” people can drive us crazy if we don’t run to Jesus with them.
We need God’s counsel. We need His wisdom. We need His power and abiding presence—exactly in those hard-to-deal-with-others-moments.
Let me say this again: Friend, we weren't made to walk alone. We were made to run to Him every day, with everything, and with every people situation.
But what does that look like in real life?
What to Do When You Disagree
First of all, you may be “right” in your opinion or position. Your insight about a person or a political issue may be correct and based on biblical truths or wisdom. The other person may be wrong . . . even really wrong. But as a wise counselor and pastor friend of mine, Victor Lee, cautions, “Our ‘observations’ about important matters involving other people can be right, wise and—if you’re a Christian—[have] Spirit-led discernment, and yet our ‘attitude’ about the people [can] be very sinful.”
Yes, we can be “right” on the matter but be sin-filled and “wrong” in our heart.
Pastor Lee goes on to offer practical ways to deal with these tough situations. He says we must:
- Surrender the burden (whether it be regarding someone who has hurt us or a concern to the Lord; He knows. It is His to move).
- Repent of bad attitudes—as often as necessary.
- Be all the more slow to speak and react, realizing we may do more harm than good even if “right.” (You can be right all day long and lose because of the way you delivered the message.)
What if everything in you wants to confront the person or the situation? What if you clearly see their sin or know their social media post is “way wrong”? After all, sometimes, we are called to speak truth, right?
How can you know if you are supposed to speak or be quiet?
First, stop and pray. Really pray. Ask the Holy Spirit for confirmation. If God directs you to not speak, don’t. (We all know the stories of those in the Bible who walked ahead their way in their own strength . . . nope, those situations never worked out well for them, and they won’t work out well for you if you run ahead in your own strength and emotion.)
If, however, you feel God is indeed leading you to confront the situation or speak truth about the matter, do so only when you can in love.
Remember, as Christ-followers, we are to follow His example. He was persecuted, rejected, misunderstood, falsely accused, and on and on. But our Lord always, always spoke truth in love. He didn’t repay evil for evil or insult with insult and tells us we are never to do so either. He says, on the contrary, to repay evil with blessing (1 Peter 3:9).
Furthermore, Jesus prayed for His enemies. And we are to do the same.
Are you praying for those who have hurt you? Are you praying for that ex-husband, that irritating coworker, that parent who hurt you? What about those who have opposing cultural or political views than you? Are you praying for them?
Indeed they may have sinned against you personally or may be very wrong in their views. But God tells us our battle is not against flesh and blood. In fact, 2 Corinthians 5:16 tells us to no longer regard anyone according to the flesh. As we look at others through spiritual lenses and imagine the wars in the heavenlies being waged over their souls, we find the Holy Spirit in us will help us to truly pray for them.
So before you ever say a word or post a response, first sit with your Savior. Open your Bible. Give yourself a chance to hear His voice above your own emotions. Pour your heart out to Him in prayer.
Watch God settle you, calm you, direct your steps, perhaps change your perspective entirely, or give you additional insight. Watch Him give you a love for those you thought you could never love.
And when we purposefully love others anyway, we will notice the Spirit growing real fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
In fact, we may even surprise ourselves when that which bothered us or hurt us so much before (insults, rejection, disrespect, or crazy, opposing political views) just seems to “bounce off” us with little effect, because we deliberately have our eye on the prize—to make our Savior known to others, not so we can be “right,” but for their good and His glory.
As we daily stay connected to the Source of our strength (Jesus), we really can look at others in those hard conflict moments and say (to ourselves), Welp, I’m going to love you anyway, because that’s exactly what my Savior would do.
And when we, over and over, love the unlovely, others are drawn to our King. They see the Savior in us! And friend, that’s big-girl, God-glorifying, change-the-world, make kingdom-difference stuff!
Are you ready? Go love them anyway!