Sometimes I write about things I don’t do well. This is one of those times. It’s not that I don’t want to do this well, it’s just that often, my sin gets in the way. Loving people with whom we disagree isn’t easy after all. If it were, we probably wouldn’t be commanded to do it.
These thoughts pertain mostly to the grey areas of life. Topics that are not specifically addressed in scripture. Adiaphora. Things on which we are free to agree to disagree. These tenets do apply to more direct Biblical commands as well, but in those cases, more care needs to be taken to discern what is truly freedom of opinion and what is not. For the record, I’m not talking about things that are clearly wrong, like driving slowly in the left lane. I mean, some states even have laws against such things, so there is really no need to discuss it.
As I’m not one to shy away from controversial topics, I could talk about any number of things here, like vaccines or politics. But I’m going to choose something altogether more divisive and timely, since I’ve had at least three uncomfortable conversations about it in the past couple of weeks. I’m going to talk about wearing face masks.
Most of our close friends and family members know we feel strongly about wearing masks in public spaces. In turn, we are very well aware that many in our friend circles, church, homeschool co-op, and immediate family do not hold the same convictions. Our convictions in one direction and their convictions in another have not been comfortable. They’ve caused some anxiety. They’ve caused misunderstandings and hurt feelings. They’ve caused me to want crawl into my blanket fort and color with my crayons, like my kids used to do when they were five. But, alas, I need to adult.
I need to go about agreeing to disagree in a truly loving manner. I could say “you do you” and be done with it. But in doing that I’d harbor resentment in my heart. I could nurse my poor, wounded heart that feels you sinned against me, but all the while I’m doing that, I’m actually sinning against you by thinking 90% of the thoughts running through my head. Obviously that is not the way to fellowship or understanding.
So, I’ve thought of a couple of things I need to do in order to adult well. More importantly, to Christian well. And love others well. These ideas are solely geared towards what I can do, not what others can or should do for me. As I tell my kids all the time, they will not stand before the Lord in judgment or in mercy under Christ and give an account for their sister / brother. No, they will give an account for themselves. And I will give an account for me and me alone.
I’ve found it is so much easier to avoid people than to be honest with them. It’s so much easier to just not hang out with certain friends or not attend a church event because I have a conflict or conflicted feelings about someone there. But that is putting my own ease above my need to fellowship with others . While it might be easier, it certainly isn’t right.
So, I’ve learned I need to be honest. I need to have the hard conversations. I need to tell someone I don’t even know and who doesn’t know me and who very well may come to conclusions about me that aren’t true, the truth. I need to say, for instance, that I’m not comfortable attending Bible study because the women there aren’t wearing face masks. I need to be honest and let her know I won’t be returning to the study because of that discomfort.
Honesty allows me freedom to voice my opinion in a kind and loving way, while upholding the opinions of others. Honestly doesn’t try to change anyone’s mind; it simply loves them enough to share my mine.
Honesty also allows others to love me. I could have made an excuse and said I was too busy to stay for prayer time in a small room with people who weren’t wearing face masks. But the only thing gained in that would have been my comfort. I would have missed out on the opportunity for the Bible study leader to try to love me well by allowing me to switch groups to be in a larger room. I would have missed out on the blessing of fellowship with another believer who holds different convictions than I do, but who desired to have me as part of the group.
Believing the best.
This is the epitome of love, really. If I am in disagreement with someone but can look past that to their heart and believe their heart is pure in intent and purpose, I’m truly loving them as Christ would want me to love them. As I’m instructed to love them in his Word. Just as I don’t want the past six months of my life, my time, my reading, my conversations, to be flattened out into someone thinking I’m the weaker believer who isn’t able to fully trust the Lord, it isn’t just for me to flatten out someone else’s life either. It isn’t right for me to think they’re the weaker believer who isn’t able to think of others ahead of themselves.
Believing the best removes assumptions and preconceptions. It allows our friends, family, fellow church members to hold differing opinions without diminishing their value in our lives.
If we believe the best about others, we believe they have come to hold their opinions out of the same thoughtful processes we have put into ours. We believe they desire to uphold God’s Word just as much as we do. We believe they love him and are striving to love fellow believers just as much as we are. We may still disagree with them. We may still think they’re flat out wrong on whatever issue is at hand. We may never see eye to eye. But, even so, we choose to maintain fellowship with them, because unity should rise above our differences. Perhaps that means we choose to do Bible study over zoom instead of in person for a season. Perhaps we set aside our desire for face to face discussion. Perhaps that is the best way to clearly hear their hearts and glean from their wisdom and understanding of what God has to say to us in his Word.
I’m working toward these things. I know there are many more areas in which I need to grow, but being honest and believing the best are where I’m at right now. Wherever you’re at, I pray the Lord will bless your endeavors to love him more deeply and glorify him in your own life.