Today's world seems more polarized than ever. Opinions on religion, politics, and education vary widely, and these deeply-held beliefs can cause strife in relationships. For example, emotions seem to be growing stronger with each election cycle. Holiday family gatherings often have an atmosphere of tension and conflict. So, how are you supposed to love someone you disagree with?
How can you love someone you disagree with when their views seem unreasonable? Another person's viewpoints can even feel offensive. Let's be honest, it can be difficult loving a person you conflict with, especially when you feel you have no common ground to stand on. Where do we begin?
Loving Your Enemies is God's Will for You
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. - 1 Corinthians 13:2
We can have all the "right answers," but if we aren't showing love to those around us, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter how theologically-sound our positions are, or how many pundits agree with us. If we aren't showing love to those we disagree with, we've lost. When we've lost our chance to show them the unconditional love of God, we've also lost our ability to speak into their lives in the future.
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” -Galatians 5:14
This is not just a suggestion, it is a command. The entire law -- all of God's standard for our lives -- can be summed up with this: "Love your neighbor as yourself." God knew that would include those we disagree with.
For example, Jesus taught the parable of the Good Samaritan. In this case, Jesus uses two enemies, a Jewish man and a Samaritan. Samaritans were despised enemies of the Jewish people, yet Jesus made the Samaritan the hero of this story. It is clear the God wants us to love even the neighbors we disagree with.
Related Post: 20 Bible Verses About God's Love
Remember They Are Someone God Loves and Jesus Died For
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. -John 13:34
You can love someone you don't like when you remember they are someone God loves and Jesus died for. Yes, even the person who doesn't vote like you or worship where you worship. Think of the politician you most disagree with. Next, picture them in your mind. Finally, meditate on this truth: God created them in His image. God loves them with a relentless love. Jesus suffered and died to rescue them.
Remembering this truth should increase our compassion for those we disagree with. If this is still hard for you, remember that you don't have to love them in your own strength. God has overflowing love for them, so ask God to fill you with His love for that person.
Social media has given us all a platform that previous generations haven't had. While social media can be used for good, it can also increase division. Whatever you post or comment, remember you are speaking to a real human being that is deeply loved by God. God created them in His image. Jesus was tortured, bled, and died on a cross for that one person. Interact with those you disagree with online with that same compassion and love.
Loving a Person You Conflict With Means Seeking Understanding
"I just can't understand how someone could vote that way."
"It's impossible to imagine how anyone would ever believe that."
"I will never understand why they made that choice."
We've probably all said something like this. The next time you think this, try changing the question. Instead of "I can't understand how..." change it to "I want to understand how..." If you're with the person you disagree with, ask the question, "Help me understand how..."
"Help me understand why you vote this way."
"What experiences or perspectives from your life lead you to believe that?"
"Why are you thinking these things?"
That last question is from Jesus, and He asks it in Mark 2:8. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus asked many questions. He was curious! Now, being all-knowing, He already knew the answers but He asked them anyway. He is showing us how important it is to gain an understanding of where people are coming from. Loving a disagreeable person can mean asking some of the very same questions Jesus asked:
"What do you think?"
"What is it you want?"
"Why are you so afraid?"
When you're compassionately curious, you can get a glimpse into the person's story. You learn their values, passions, and fears. Gaining an understanding helps you have a respectful dialogue that can lead to future conversations about what's important to you.
You Can Love Someone You Disagree With by Praying for Them
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. -Matthew 5:43-48
Prayer centers our focus on God. When we pray, we let go of our own agenda and seek God's will. Our spirit is strengthened. Through prayer, we gain the compassion we need to love those we don't like. We see them as we see ourselves, in desperate need of Jesus. On top of that, prayer also blesses them!
Related Post: 7 Truths the Bible Teaches About Love
You Can Love Someone You Disagree With by Being a Peacemaker
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. -Romans 12:18
"As far as it depends on you..." How you act and react is your responsibility. You can't control another person's actions but, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. "Everyone" includes loving that person you conflict with!
Start by finding something you can be unified on. Strive to find common ground and start there. For example, perhaps you both want what's best for your family. You may have different ideas of what that looks like, but you both have a common goal. Emphasize how noble that goal is and how you see their heart for their family. Honor their desire to serve their family and provide for them. Continue trying to find more common ground and honor them.
Eventually, you will find areas of life where you disagree and that is okay. It is possible to disagree with someone without disrespecting or dishonoring them! You can remain firm in your viewpoint while still offering unwavering love. You can have vastly different opinions and still honor who they are as an image-bearer of God.
Related Post: 5 Simple Ways to Show God's Love to Others
Loving Someone You Disagree With Points Them to Jesus
But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. - Luke 6:27-32
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. -2 Peter 3:9
Our goal is to help everyone take their next step toward Jesus, whether or not they currently believe in Him. If that is our ultimate goal, then we need to commit to love everyone, especially those we disagree with. When we're speaking with someone who disagrees with us, we should have one main goal: We want them to leave the conversation willing to have another conversation.
When talking to someone who doesn't follow Jesus, we shouldn't leave the discussion wondering, "Did I win?" Instead, we should leave asking, "Did they feel loved by God and loved by me? Would they be willing to have another conversation with me or another Christian?"
We always want to keep the window open to have a second conversation, and a third, and continue on until they are in a place to begin a relationship with Jesus. It's the Lord's desire that all come to find life in Him.
Related Post: 5 Truths About Loving Difficult People