It shouldn’t surprise you that people hold onto their beliefs and ideologies strongly. I know this because it’s exactly what I do.
Over the last few months, I have been in many situations where my beliefs have come head-to-head with those around me. These can be things like work habits, friendship norms, politics and religion. I live in a society that discourages confrontation, so I often hold my anger inside, filling me with bitterness. In many of these cases it has caused distance and bitterness in my relationships.
But as a Christian, I need to love people well.
My friend asked me recently, “Are we setting up millennials well for a world where people will have very different beliefs that often contradict their own?”
It caught me off guard. How do you love someone well, especially when you disagree with them?
When I began working with Cru this fall, my main goal was to love people well. I thought that would mean spending time with people, hearing their stories, writing notes and baking things for them. While these are very nice things to do, they aren’t love. My actions are supposed to be an outflow of love.
Instead, I found I was placed in a group of broken people that were very different from me. They had different views on politics, current events, social issues and even what good community looks like. Through this experience, I have learned how broken I really am and how I desire to love and be loved. I saw that there was a tendency to get angry and disengage when people didn’t see eye-to-eye with me.
God is teaching me that we are called to a higher form of love. We are called to a painful love. Love means giving of yourself, whether that is through time, energy, resources or reputation by associating yourself with people or groups that often are avoided. Love means considering the needs of others more important than your own. Love isn’t contingent on others responding to you the way you want them to. Love, true Christ-like love, is meant to be unconditional, sacrificial and sometimes painful.
We often encourage others to hold strong to their beliefs, but only as long as what they believe is in line with what we believe and what society accepts. There are parts of ourselves and our beliefs that we have to hide because we have been given parameters around what we should act or think. Sometimes this means being nonoffensive toward others, inclusive of everyone and never disagreeing openly with others. We have groups and labels that we identify with that put parameters on how we act, dress and think.
In my home, I was encouraged to be creative and not let anyone put me down for being different. When I was in college, I was given room to express my beliefs through my classes.
In the midst of all of that, though, I had to adhere to various unseen parameters. I could have my opinions on politics as long as they were politically correct. I could have my religion as long as I didn’t disagree with others’ religions.
Stepping outside these parameters would mean risking alienation and rejection or being seen as hateful. I realize now I do the same thing to others. People around me are allowed to have their opinions about race and politics as long as they don’t betray my core beliefs.
But I’m learning that we are not our ideas, we are children of God.
I believe as Christians we first need to remember what Christ did for us. We are all imperfect and our imperfections are offensive to our perfect God.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. Colossians 1:21
Christ died to reconcile – to restore – our relationship with God.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old is gone the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18
Our ideas should not separate us from fellow believers because we are united in Christ. Moreover, our ideas should not distance us from people from other religious and spiritual beliefs because our love for others is what’s meant to set us apart. We as Christians are called to love one another. We are called to care about and understand each other.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12:30-31
Our sins and imperfections are deserving of death. Christ brought us out of death and slavery. We are redeemed, bought with a price.
I’m learning that loving people and being open to understanding their point of view also comes with a price. Love isn’t baking cookies for friends or writing encouraging notes. Love is uncomfortable, hard and sometimes painful because people are messy. We are called by God to give of ourselves and lean into the messiness so we can be proof of God’s work on this earth.
In moments when I find myself in a conversation with someone and I’m thinking, “What is wrong with this person?” I find it helpful to ask questions like, “How did you come to believe that?”
Questions help us not judge hastily.
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. Matthew 7:1-2
Asking questions can help show a person you care about what they are saying and it will help you understand that person and their experience better.
Be filled with the Spirit
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told the disciples he would send a helper – the Holy Spirit – the third person of God. He told them to not try to share the Good News of salvation until the Holy Spirit came. We are not supposed to try to be reconcilers of man and God without the Spirit. So why would we try to love those who can be hard to love without Him?
Remember who you are
We are created uniquely for God’s glory.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22
We are the body of Christ, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. We are the reconciled and redeemed.
I recently learned that my idea of love was all wrong and it was very humbling. Some of you might be in the same boat. Pursue humility, putting others before yourself, in order to love people with Christ’s love. Rely on and be filled with the Holy Spirit, because without him we do not have the strength and power to succeed at loving others well. Finally, remember who you are and what Christ did for you. He loved you past the point where it was painful. Christ thought you were worthy of love, therefore love others.
Social distancing, so unprecedented for most of us, also raises particular questions for the Christian community. How do we do life differently during a global crisis like this?
Learning ways to include evangelism in your daily life.
I believe nature is one of the most powerful tools we have in worship and evangelism.
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