Have you been listening to conversation on social media? Have you wondered why many people have changed their Facebook profile pictures to a picture that uses the Rainbow Pride filter? Have you read posts from well-meaning friends and family that question the hate and promote the love?
Regarding the Facebook profile pictures, millions of people have changed their profile pictures to show LGBT pride and support. Many Christians have also followed the trend since the landmark SCOTUS decision. So, what are these other Christians saying with the change? What does this trend tell us? Are you a hater if you don’t change your profile picture? Are you a hater if you actually say you believe that homosexuality and same-sex marriage are sins?
Here’s the question behind the question: Is it possible to love people and disagree with them? In other words, does it mean you hate me and people like me if you choose to disagree with me or that I hate you and others like you if I disagree with you?
Why is this question significant?
There are several reasons this is a crucial question and a helpful conversation. First, Christians are accusing Christians of hating others because they disagree with them. As part of the body of Christ where God desires our unity and love to be what marks us as His people, this is a substantial problem. Second, the way we as Christ-followers communicate our position (agreement or disagreement) with a particular view matters to those to whom we communicate. As a matter of passion and command, we are to live and speak in ways that generate interest in our relationship with Jesus instead of pushing people away from Him. Third, God’s glory and honor is at stake in this overall discussion. Everything we do – including our conversations and disagreements both as Christians and with the greater world in which we live – is to glorify God.
So, back to our question: Is it possible to love someone and disagree with him or her?
Simple answer…yes, it is possible.
Is it possible to love someone and disagree with him or her?
Simple answer…yes, it is possible.
There are three reasons this is true.
First, logic tells us this is true. It is possible to disagree with someone and still love them. If my friend has one opinion and I have another, our friendship doesn’t cease to exist. Instead, we have two friends with two different opinions, maybe even three opinions. A difference in preference is part of life; we choose our preferences each day.
Second, experience tells us this is true. We experience this our entire lives. Consider for a moment how your preferences – which certainly may differ from that of your other friends – highlight all types of differences, such as food, hobbies, car makes and models, clothing options, neighborhoods, style of living quarters, beverages, schools, and thousands of other areas/issues/topics. We disagree with each other on what is beautiful, sad, valuable, desirable, and time-worthy, to only mention a few. We have potential disagreement with our friends on practically anything. Personally, as an almost 20-year veteran of ministry, I disagree with myself in some areas as I look back on what I’ve said and taught. In fact, many have observed that opposites attract. It is possible to have friendships without agreement with each other.
Third, the Bible tells us this is true. Over and over the Bible commands Christians to love one another. Here’s a sample of those passages: “These things I command you, that you love one another” (John 15:17). “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;…” (1 Thessalonians 4:9). “…love one another fervently with a pure heart,…” (1 Peter 1:22). “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another…” (1 John 3:11). “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7).
In spite of all the various places and ways that we can disagree with each other – and often do, we are still called to live in love for one another.
In spite of all the various places and ways that we can disagree with each other – and often do, we are still called to live in love for one another. As we love one another, we seek to demonstrate unity to the world around us (John 17:20-26). Similar to a husband and wife who may have various preferences but live together lovingly as one flesh in unity (Ephesians 5:22-33), members of the body of Christ are to live together lovingly in unity. This type of love and unity is only cultivated and manifested toward each other as we imitate God and walk in love like Christ (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Practical Examples of Love in spite of Disagreements
Continuing our consideration of the home, there are many times this plays out where people disagree yet we continue to love each other. Let me mention two examples.
First, how do we respond when our children tell us they hate peas and carrots and desire to have a candy bar for their meal instead? As parents we know our children need more than sugar to grow into healthy individuals. However, our children desire sugar and are convinced they know what is best in spite of our warnings. Although there is a major difference in world views – healthy eating versus unhealthy eating – neither of us choose not to love the other person or consider each other haters.
Second, consider the child who is warned about going outside without shoes and appropriate apparel for a particular activity, but then chooses to not heed the warning because he or she knows what is best. When the child comes back in with a cut foot, a skinned arm, or contacts poison ivy and chiggers, how do we as parents respond? Although there may be some kind of discipline in the process, the primary response is to lovingly address the wounds or bites in order to promote healing. We lovingly serve our child in spite of the disagreement which helped cause the hurt.
In both these examples, the parents and the children have differing worldviews. They disagree. And in both of these cases, the parents are right and the children are wrong. The children in both cases may not understand out of ignorance and may question the parents’ love temporarily; however, love motivates the parent to respond with grace and kindness in spite of the disagreement.
Back to the issue at hand: Is it possible to disagree without being a hater?
Again, absolutely yes. So then why do so many consider disagreeing with each other over same-sex marriage hate? Let me suggest three reasons.
First, many Christians struggle loving others selflessly. The ways we have handled various disagreements with each other and the world in the past have been hateful and not seasoned with grace. We have failed in our frugal attempts to obey the greatest commandments, to love God supremely and love others sincerely (Matthew 22:37-40). So our own past can influence us to misjudge people in the present.
Second, we misunderstand the difference between judging others and practicing discernment. Jesus was clear when He taught to not judge each other out of a prideful spirit (Matthew 7:1-5). He warned that as we judge others, we will also be judged. Instead, Jesus said to check our own heart first. We begin with careful consideration of the places where we must seek forgiveness for our own sin and strive to live a God-honoring life in Christ. We begin with proper self-assessment. Only after we identify and implement necessary change in our own lives are we to approach another person. But Jesus does say it is appropriate to practice discernment, lovingly and humbly seeking to help another person who is in sin.
Third, we fail to give each other the benefit of the doubt. James teaches that just because something looks like sin does not mean it is necessarily sinful (James 2:1-13). Whenever we see what we believe may be sin in another person’s life, we approach that person with humility by asking honest questions rather than assuming we know someone’s motive. We do not judge another person because we assume we know what is in another person’s heart. If there is a possibility that what the person is doing may not be sinful, then we must not judge it as sin without appropriate conversation driven by humility.
Stop Your Hating and Start Your Loving!
Here’s the bottom line: I can honestly believe based on the Word of God that homosexuality and same-sex marriage are sins, while at the same time also love the homosexual sincerely and compassionately, just as I would any sinner committing any other sin. As a Christ-follower operating out of a biblical worldview where I strive to follow the two great commandments of loving God supremely and loving others sincerely, my responsibility is to first deal with my own sin before I call on others to deal with their sin. To call sin “sin” and to call sinners to repentance is not unloving. If we disagree, that is simply that, a disagreement. We can disagree in humility and love. The bigger issue is not whether or not we disagree; rather, we must consider if we are assuming we know the other person’s motives in the disagreement. We cannot assume that someone else is hating just because they say something with which we disagree. We cannot assess their motives or we become the judge – then we are the ones in sin. So as you engage people in various settings such as social media, give the person the benefit of the doubt. Treat them as you would want to be treated.
In a nutshell:
- Treat each other with grace and understanding – give each other the benefit of the doubt.
- Disagreement and hate are not co-equals. A disagreement is simply that, a disagreement. If you perceive hate, begin by checking your own heart.
- Don’t assume because someone else voices disagreement that they are in fact being hateful – you don’t know the other person’s motives.
- If you disagree with someone, consider if you have done so with hate. Are you voicing your opinion with loving kindness and wisdom?
- Seek to love others like Christ through words, actions, and attitude.