With the state of this country, Americans - specifically American Christians - have been talking a lot about loving each other. That the way to solve the division is through love. While this is true, I have a question for those people: How? How do I love someone I disagree with on issues that are so close to my heart? The best, most complete answer I have is to follow Jesus and to seek after Him, but that isn't very concrete. So what is one step we can take to better love those around us?
In his book The Blue Parakeet, Scot McKnight has an idea about love:
"Listening and loving are intimately connected."
When I read this, I realized that McKnight had put into words something I had always known, but had never been able to express.
You see, humans are drawn to stories. We were created to be a part of stories. We love to tell stories, and we love to have our stories be heard.
The first step to understanding someone else, is listening to his/her story. We cannot know why he/she views the world a certain way until we know where he/she has been. And to know where he/she has been, we must first ask questions, and then listen to the answers.
Think about a time that you were hurting. What were the moments that made you feel slightly better? Was it when someone told you how he/she made it through a similar situation? Was it when someone told you that God has a plan? My guess is it was when a friend sat with you and listened. Maybe your friend didn't say a single thing, or maybe he/she affirmed your feelings. Either way, you probably felt heard, and, through that, felt loved.
Listening and loving are intimately connected.
Who knows you better than anyone else? Whoever it is, that person probably has taken a lot of time to listen to you. Listening to your excitement, your pain, your sadness, your joy, your passion. And you probably listen to that person, too. Because deep down we crave relationship, and the only way to have relationship is to listen. And what are relationships all about?
We know what happens when we listen to each other. We know it creates sympathy, connection, and understanding. We just don't talk about it. We want to have a reason to hate those on the "other side", so we choose to ignore their stories. If we don't understand where they are coming from, it is much easier to hate their opinions.
But when we ignore them and talk about love all in one breath, we have a problem.
Because listening and loving are intimately connected.
So the next time you are frustrated with the division in this country, try asking someone from the "other side" about his/her story. Ask someone about his/her opinion on immigration. Ask for experience. And listen. And do you know what it takes to actually be listening? Sound. So if you are having this "conversation" over social media, text, etc. you aren't actually having a conversation or building relationship. Try going to coffee with someone you disagree with. Try inviting them into your home. It's amazing what can happen when we simply listen to each other.