We don’t agree on much as a human race and because of this, we have created an environment where you can pick and choose what you feel is right. When each of us adheres to a certain “right way” and feels led to inform everyone that is the “right way” we cause a division instead of an open discussion. Christians are very good at this… We know what the Bible says and we know that it is truly the right way so we push it on everyone else aggressively. We say that it is out of love but many times it is out of judgment and our want to be seen as holy. Even when we are doing it for the best of reasons, when we attempt to force someone into seeing things our way we create division.
What if I told you that division is not of the Lord and is actually sinful… I am guessing you are uncomfortable with that statement. That is okay because I am uncomfortable writing it, but that doesn’t make it any less true. We are called to make disciples of the world but that does not give us permission to be aggressive and force others into the faith. We should be taking the Romans 14:19 approach, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” I had to look up the word edification, but in short, it means, the instruction or improvement of a person morally or intellectually. In other words, you can lead more people to the Lord by kindness and peace than by aggression and force. We also give ourselves the opportunity to widen our understanding of people and their struggles when we have an open discussion about our differences instead of an all-out war.
God did not create us to agree with each other all the time but He also didn’t create us to hate one another either. God created each of us uniquely and differently meaning that we all have different minds and can see things differently. This shouldn’t be a point of argument but a point of discussion. This should be an opportunity to love not to hate, an opportunity for discussion, not arguments. Many of my closest friends see things much differently than I do, but that doesn’t make them wrong and it doesn’t make me right, it just makes us different. When we embrace those and can openly and respectfully discuss them it makes for a stronger and more loving relationship. Without mutual respect for one another, there cannot be a common ground.
How do we love and accept others who are different than us?
We follow the example of Jesus and Paul. Jesus was accused of spending too much time with dirty people and outcasts. Well, that is because He did! Jesus was constantly having dinner with former prostitutes, sinful tax collectors, and people the religious scholars hated. Jesus never looked at their outward appearance but at their hearts and their willingness to learn. I am sure that those dinners were filled with open discussions about what made everyone different. Their differences are what made them great. In Matthew 9:12, Jesus says, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” We have all been diagnosed with the same illness of sinfulness and the only cure is Jesus. We need His care just as much as the rebellious children of God.
The apostle Paul is another great example of a man who was completely different from the typical Bible character but through God, he was changed. He went from persecuting Christians to leading countless to the faith. Throughout his ministry, he remained humble and grateful for all of the opportunities God had given him to share the Gospel. He traveled across the map sharing the gospel to anyone who would listen including a group of people called the gentiles. Not everyone liked the fact that he reached outside the chosen people to welcome all to the faith. They were not God’s chosen people but Paul still saw them as God’s people and chose to love them by sharing the gospel. Paul didn’t look at the title of the man when he preached, he knew that everyone there was a child of God and deserved to hear the gospel.
Christians today are much different than Jesus and Paul and as such we have a lot to learn from them. We tend to have the reputation of being judgemental, preachy and looking down on others for how they do things. That is because for many of us it is true. I hate to admit it but I am just as guilty of this as everyone else. I hold myself to a very high standard and expect others to do the same. I know what the Bible teaches and push that on others instead of taking the time to build a relationship and understand where they are coming from. When they fall short of my expectations instead of giving them the grace that I receive from God when I fall short, I began to think differently of them. The issue with that is that I am holding others to an expectation that is only meant for me. They are not meant to fit into my expectations, as I am not meant to fit into theirs. Instead of letting the differences change my mind about it I should accept those differences and try to see them from a different perspective.
I want to be more like Jesus and Paul. I want to accept that there are differences but not let them affect the way I see people. I want to be known as a friend of all people and not just “my people”, whatever that means. We are all God’s people and I should be loving everyone as if they were my brother or sister whether they are a believer or not. When it gets down to the bottom of it we can just agree to disagree on the small stuff and move on because the truth of the matter is that we are all God’s beloved children at the end of the day.
I recently saw a Christian meme (the best kind of course) involving Paul that said true forgiveness and love are shown when Paul walked into heaven and the people he persecuted cheered and embarrassed him with hugs. That is the kind of forgiveness and love we should show to those who have hurt us or even those who are different from us. I want to be able to accept the differences in our world and learn from them. That means I will have to sit with the sinners, reach out to nonbelievers, and choose love over hate even when it is hard. That doesn’t mean that I have to agree with those who oppose my belief but I can learn to respect them.
My challenge for you and mostly myself is to recognize the opportunity to ministry through building a relationship with those who oppose my belief and learn from them instead of just trying to change them. I am sure if you give it some thought you have a list of friends, family, coworkers, or neighbors that you could have an open discussion with about your opposing beliefs in a respectful way.