4 Ways to Love Someone Well When You Disagree with Them

Last Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is legal nation-wide. This prompted an emotional response ranging from euphoric celebration to critical vitriol, to fearful-of-saying-the-wrong-thing silence.

This post is not about the ruling at all. Except it is, in that it is about loving one another well even when we disagree. Honestly, I am posting this with fear and trembling and a lot of prayer. Most will say I’m crazy for even trying to address this, but it’s only by leaning in and continuing to dialog that we’ll get anywhere, so here goes…

I can’t possibly in a gazillion years imagine how hard it is to be gay in our society. Even with growing understanding, and respect in the culture, the brutal experiences of rejection and dishonor I have heard about from friends who are gay, give me just a tiny glimpse of their world.

But I am also dismayed that it often seems in order for me not to be labeled a hater or homophobe I need to support every choice a gay person might endorse. It pains me that there are actually people who, in their support of gays, have turned a cold shoulder towards we who disagree with them in some areas of theology. It’s not easy for any of us to respectfully disagree and still love well.

And this is the most important work of my life, of your life – learning how to love others well.design

There is the image of Jesus, and the brokenness of sin in all of us. We are a beautiful ugly mess; every one of us in need of redemption. As we love each other we recognize more beauty and more brokenness, and we move towards becoming more of the person God designed us to be.

When we sit down in church (if we go to church), we sit down as gay, straight, bi…We live with an orientation we didn’t choose – not right, not wrong, just real. But regardless of orientation, we have choices and challenges as to how we will live. We sit among gossips and gluttons, those in recovery and rebellion, adulterers and idolators. They are us. Lovely, lost, and relentlessly pursued by our Creator.

Whether we sit in a pew or on a bar stool, I believe we’re all doing our best to find our way.

Do we ever totally agree with those sitting next to us? Probably not.

Can we still love them? Jesus commands it, so honey we’d better be on board with it.

Gay or straight, we are precious children, made in the image of God, deserving of love and respect. But love and respect don’t mean endorsement of choices we disagree on.

There is a lie that says, “To love me you have to agree with me.” 

Love does not equal moral indifference, but it engages from a place of humility and grace. We all “see through a glass darkly”.  You might be wrong. I might be wrong, but we’re doing our best to love God and others in the context of our beliefs.

I want to share 4 ways that I think we can love others well when we disagree, but I do that with the caveat that I am a rookie with so, so much to learn:

1. Move towards, not away. 

Spend time, listen well, sit around a table together. Open your arms to welcome those with whom you differ. Welcome them into your church, your home, your small group, your work.

Distance breeds distrust, but proximity leads to understanding and empathy even when it’s scary or uncomfortable.

We have a rather shy gay friend who lives in our neighborhood. He kind of reminds me of a wary doe in the woods. Over the years we’ve just kept moving towards him gently, trying to love him well and not scare him off. Every single week he sits in the same spot in church, and often brings friends. Recently I asked him to serve communion with me. Oh how I pray he continues to feel our church is a safe and accepting environment for him to experience God’s love.

2. Don’t expect someone with a different world view to make the same choices you do.

Because of our interpretation of Scripture, we don’t perform marriage ceremonies between gay people in our church, but it’s a right that we believe all people should have in our society. Those who don’t hold our interpretation of Scripture, or who aren’t followers of Jesus are absolutely entitled to have the rights and protection of our government, so I support the decision by the Supreme Court this week.

God loves us so much, He respects our freedom. Although He has the power to overrule our choice, he doesn’t.

3. Major on the majors. 

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently. (Romans 14:1 MSG)

We have a young man who is gay on our staff part-time. He loves Jesus. He trusts Him as his Lord and Savior. He trusts Him as a sinner like all of us, dependent on grace. This is the main thing. He also has agreed to the same standards of sexual purity we ask of all of our staff. We’ve had hard, explicit conversations with him about his responsibility as a leader. He didn’t choose his orientation, but he has choices regarding his lifestyle.

4. Affirm all you can in every way you can.

Recently, I woke up to find a picture on Facebook of two women friends of ours. It was a picture of their wedding with congratulations. Now, I may wish the Bible said differently, but after a lot of studying, I can’t avoid coming to the conclusion that God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman, and sex outside of that is not His best intention for us. BUT, that doesn’t mean I don’t love these friends and want all the joy in the world for them. It doesn’t mean we’re not friends or that I don’t support them, pray for them, and cheer them on. They know what I believe. What they need to be assured of is that I love them. So both John and I wrote messages affirming how beloved they are and that we are praying for their joy.

This is loving in the deep end of the pool – hard stuff for us all, because the issue of gay marriage in particular is so emotionally charged. I’m on board with a goal articulated by a colleague recently – that of trying to stay between the one guardrail of commitment to a theological position on marriage – believing that God’s Word is intended for our flourishing, and the other guardrail of respect and love for all people. Jesus came full of grace and truth. He never compromised either.  He did, though, always lead with grace so I want to too.

May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!

So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory. Jesus did it; now you do it! (Romans 15:5-7 MSG)

If you post a comment, could you please post on the topic of loving well in the midst of disagreement, and not on your opinion of gay marriage? Thanks!

 

12 Comments

  1. Taylor Ytterbo

    June 29, 2015 at 9:42 AM

    I needed to hear this this morning, for a wide variety of reasons. Thank you, Laura, for your bravery and honesty in sharing this with us. Loving through disagreement goes far beyond this issue and this is something I need to keep in mind for any differences I have with the people in my life. Thank you, again!

    Taylor

  2. Love it, Laura. Our pastor framed the conversation in a similar fashion within the context of 1 Cor 13, contrasting the language of power vs. the language of love (http://www.irvingbible.org/media/). Russell Moore (SBC) also framed things from a much broader perspective with this quote, “The church must prepare for the refugees from the sexual revolution.” If we do so and with the language of love, then we might be able to be heard by those left hurt, empty and disappointed by the insufficient fillers of the flesh and the world.

    • Great words, Brian. Thank you for adding to the conversation!

      • Kerri Andersen

        June 29, 2015 at 12:01 PM

        Confession: I’ve been silently hiding in the “fearful-of-saying-the-wrong-thing” camp — even within my own family. Thank you for prayerfully articulating what I haven’t been brave enough to. I pray for the grace to always lead with love in this, and other matters.

      • Kerri Andersen

        June 29, 2015 at 12:01 PM

        Confession: I’ve been silently hiding in the “fearful-of-saying-the-wrong-thing” camp — even within my own family. Thank you for prayerfully articulating what I haven’t been brave enough to. I pray for the grace to always lead with love in this, and other matters.

  3. I’m with you too, Kerri! I so appreciate your stepping to the plate and writing this, Laura! It seems like conversations about tolerance only go one way these days, when ALL sides should be respected. It’s so easy to just leave someone out of your life because they have a difference of opinion. It breaks my heart to see folks I love and respect, distance themselves from friends and family who disagree with them on this issue and on abortion, because they think OTHERS are intolerant. Love isn’t for sissies.

  4. Nicole Bergeland

    June 29, 2015 at 10:15 PM

    Thank you thank you thank you for speaking out even when you are timid and fearful. I too have said nothing bc I don’t want it to be misconstrued as unloving as that is definitely not my intention – but as Marcia previously said if you don’t think a certain way on this subject you are just plain wrong. Leading with love and grace is my first goal everyday bc I need that grace so tremendously much also. Thank you Laura for your words. They spoke to my heart deeply!

  5. “Loving well in the midst of disagreement:” At a lunch last Sunday I sat across from an interesting couple. She was local, and he had just flown in from Wisconsin that day – his first time out of his country. This was their first encounter and they shared no common language but they were holding hands and quite affectionate with each other. Later, I asked the lady next to me about this. She said many of her lady friends had boyfriends in the US. She said her own husband was American and lived in Chicago. She is an accountant and cares for her aging parents with no relocation plan. I won’t see this group again, however, that noonday, although I felt uncomfortable and thought the whole thing rather odd, I began to reflect on Jesus and how he loved people. So, I prayed for these folks who are looking for love to find Jesus’ love. I remembered how Jesus is a great lover of mankind – that is, of all of us, who are each in our own way desperate for his love.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Jodi. Wow, you’re right, each of us are desperate for love and it’s good to remember we’re all doing our best.I’m so glad you thought to pray for these strangers.

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