I posted this Voltaire quote on Instagram several weeks ago, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Among many happy face emojis was one half-hearted response from my friend Rick. Essentially, he disagreed with me. I wasn’t surprised. In fact, sometimes I don’t post my opinion on Instagram because I know Rick (and others who disagree with me) follow my feed. How could anyone disagree with freedom of speech? And though I wasn’t prepped for a full-on debate, I asked him what he meant by his comment.
For the next few weeks, Rick and I engaged in an ongoing conversation. I began our first interaction on Voxer (an app where one can leave long voice messages for another) by informing him that I don’t like conflict. Basically, please be nice to me. Our conversations ranged from Donald Trump, masks, lockdowns, friendship, Jesus, and included the occasional cuss word.
Rick went on rants and apologized when he was out of line. I repeated myself often and told him outright I disagreed with his viewpoint. Initially, I set out to correct Rick’s thinking. He was clearly wrong. I’m sure he was determined to convince me to see how wrong I was.
For days and weeks, we discussed current events, Joe Rogan, and the Biden administration. I’d share my perspective, and he would share his. At one point, I even cried because he acknowledged my pain. I think he chocked up a time or two as well.
Did Rick’s views and data change me? No.
Did my robust, heart-felt, sound arguments change Rick? I don’t think he budged an inch.
But this is what did happen. I came to respect him, and perhaps, he came to respect me a little too. We came to see that we assumed things that weren’t true about each other, and in fact, we had both been hurt over the past several years. We were both passionate, and we were both flawed.
Having these conversations with Rick didn’t change my political beliefs, but it changed something else in me. I didn’t need to be right anymore. Of course, I want to be right, and I still think I am right on a lot of the issues. But I didn’t need to be right. I realized that relationships trump right-ness.
I can be so focused on being right that I miss the relationship. So many relationships became fractured through the pandemic. So many arguments erupted, so many fights over freedom, so many fears drove us into separate corners like cockroaches scattering when a light flips on.
But Jesus teaches us to approach relationships in a different way.
Jesus doesn’t tell us to mount an attack with our best arguments. Jesus doesn’t say to come out swinging. Jesus doesn’t tell us to look down on other people who don’t see things our way. No, Jesus says, “Give your neighbor your cloak, turn the other cheek, be the good Samaritan.” Jesus says, “Be slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Jesus says, “Love your neighbor like yourself.”
I think we can all grow from talking to people who stand on the other side of issues. People who don’t agree with your political, theological, or ethical views deserve to be loved and heard. But the first step isn’t to change someone. The first step is to see the other person as human and loved.
I am human and can be wrong. I am human and worthy to be loved. They are human and can be wrong. They are human and worthy to be loved. The way forward isn’t to change people but to love them. Love may not change someone’s politics, but it will change you. As you love, you will become more like Christ. And this, my friends, is good.Leave a Comment