The world often responds to hate with more hate.
You voted for this person and I voted for that person? I hate you!
You think this and I think that? I hate you!
You’re passionate about this and I’m passionate about that? I hate you!
You disagree with me on x, y, or z? I hate you!
Jesus turns things upside down. He makes it clear: I disagree with you. I don’t agree with your actions. I think very differently than you. Your ways are not my ways—they’re different. But get this: I still want to sit with you. I still welcome you. I still love you.
Welcoming people is different from agreeing with people. Loving people doesn’t mean changing what we believe. It doesn’t mean watering down God or the Bible. It doesn’t mean agreeing with others when we know we don’t.
But what if we put as much effort into finding common ground as we do into picking apart one another’s arguments? What if instead of automatically focusing on what makes us different, we choose to celebrate what makes us the same? To listen? To respect instead of belittling someone else’s point of view? What if we loved one another as broken, messed-up people and not just because we fall on the same side of the political spectrum?
Do people know what you’re for or do they just know what you’re against? My opinion is that we already have enough “against people”—people who only talk about what they don’t agree with. I want to be one of the “for people”—people constantly focused on the positive things we’re for, not what we’re against.
Do you disagree with someone? Instead of distancing yourself or condemning her to hell in your head, befriend her. Sit down and listen to her. It’s harder to hate someone when you’ve grabbed coffee with her. And it’s more difficult to judge when you’ve heard her story, and not just the pretty parts.
Here’s something else to consider: Do the people who disagree with you still enjoy being with you? Better yet, do you have many friends, not just acquaintances, who disagree with your thoughts and beliefs? Don’t have any? That’s not a good thing. I love you enough to tell you, in this area of your life you don’t look like Jesus—at all! We should be surrounding ourselves with people who are different from us.
Too often we write off people we don’t agree with as being evil, but is that really our job? Is our job to poke holes in every opinion that doesn’t totally line up with ours? Often we’d rather tear people down than simply try to understand.
When we’re this divided as a country, this divided as a world, is it even possible to love the people who disagree with us? Better yet, is it even possible to have a somewhat civilized conversation with them?
I would argue that yes, yes it is still possible to love those who are different than us, those who (for some reason that we really can’t comprehend) disagree with us. When we do, we begin to see the humanity in them. Let’s take a look at how.
The first step to loving someone who disagrees with you is to get a little uncomfortable.
Have actual conversations with people that you know think differently from you. Move from your space to someone else’s. Meet others on their ground. In their place of comfort, not yours. Ask questions. Ask them to share their story and listen.
It’s not easy, and it definitely won’t be comfortable. But if we want to love people who disagree with us we absolutely have to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable.
So, step out.
Text that person you know lands on the different side of the political spectrum than you do.
Dare to have a conversation and hold back on sharing your own opinion first.
Put yourself in situations where you have to interact with people who are different from you.
Touch (yep, even during COVID).
Touch matters. When we touch we literally cross into another person’s space. The two become one in marriage, but on a smaller level, this happens every time we touch someone. We communicate that you are worthy of love. You are made in the image of God. You are lovely. You are beautiful.
Being touched matters.
Normally, this point would outline some ways to touch someone in a way that unites the two people.
Give a hug.
Extend your hand for a handshake or high-five.
A pat on the back.
Squeezing the shoulder in encouragement.
But we’re living in a time where touch is pretty much a no-go unless you live in the same household. So, how can we still love those who disagree with us through touch when we’re in the middle of a pandemic?
Smile at the person across the street from you.
Wave at that stranger.
Pull up a lawn chair and have a conversation with a friend while sitting outside.
First bump all over the place!
Make intentional eye contact.
There are still ways we can unite and cross into another person’s world even if we can’t physically touch people right now. Find a way to “touch” someone today—you’ll be surprised at how far even one little action can go.
Agree to disagree.
Loving those who disagree with you doesn’t automatically mean having to change your own opinion or condone everything they’re saying. Sometimes the best way to love those who disagree with us is to agree to disagree!
We all have the right to our own opinions, and your opinion is just as valid as mine. I don’t have to change your mind on an issue in order to love you well. In fact, the opposite is usually more true. If I love someone despite the fact that their opinion is different than mine, it shows I care more about that person than my own opinion and being on the right side of an argument.
If there’s one thing we’ve lost as a society, it’s this: the ability to think differently and still love and respect each other. We like to polarize and pigeonhole people. Conservatives polarize progressives. Progressive polarize conservatives. Sad! If people are different from us, we like to label and demonize. It’s impossible to love someone we’ve labeled.
Agree to disagree, and then choose to listen. Listen to what the person on the other side of an issue has to say. Don’t just listen so that you can counter their points, either. Really listen to hear where they’re coming from and why they think the way they do. You don’t have to walk away thinking the same thing, but you can still be friends—leaving with a new sense of empathy and understanding.
Walk in their shoes.
Finally, one of the best ways to learn to love someone that disagrees with you is by taking a walk in their shoes.
This might be a news flash to us, but not everyone has had the same experiences, opportunities, background, education, or relationships as you. Not even close! We go into situations with a myriad of different experiences that have shaped us into who we are today over the years. We’ll never truly understand why someone thinks the way we do unless we make the effort to walk in their shoes for a bit.
Obviously it’s not totally possible to be someone else for a day, but we can be intentional in how we empathize with and relate to the people who think differently than we do.
Listen to their answers.
Ask more questions.
Make an intentional effort to learn from people whose background is different than yours, whether that’s through consuming their content or having face-to-face conversations.
You’ll never be able to fully place yourself in the shoes of someone else, but we can all make a better effort to try. So lace up a new pair of shoes and start walking.
Loving people who think differently than we do is some hard stuff, maybe now so more than ever. But it is possible. And so incredibly necessary.
Get uncomfortable. Touch. Agree to disagree. And take a walk in another person’s shoes. Maybe you’ll even learn something you didn’t know before.
Get Adam’s latest book, Love Has a Name: Learning to Love the Difficult, the Different, and Everyone Else here.