I hate this time of year. As the election nears, the possibility for division in the Christian community grows. I remember being at a friend’s dinner party shortly after the 2008 election. Of course politics came up, and one angry guy at the table vehemently said, “I don’t know of a single Christian who voted for Obama! My first thought was, “Dude, you need to get out more.” My second thought was, “Yes you do, but they would never tell you because you don’t know how to listen.”
Dude, make a friend who is different than you! It might not change the way you think, but at least you can learn where folks on the others side are coming from.
Friendship Changes Everything
If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that friendship changes everything. So much of our judgement against those different from us whether ethnically, politically, or spiritually can be diminished if we make genuine friendships with them. So make a friend with someone of a different faith, differ color, and different political opinion.
I’m not saying friends will necessarily convince you to believe their way. You can listen and actually end up believing stronger in what you believe, but at least listen. Try to understand why they believe what they believe. There is often so much more than mere arguments behind what people believe. There are experiences, feelings, and history that shape people’s opinions. Why not hear the story behind their convictions and grow from it?
I actually left the dinner party sad for that guy. I thought, “Wow! How sad that he has no friends different from him.” What a boring life.
Churches, Learn From One Another
The conversation I heard that day was not unlike one I heard ten years ago when the college pastor of one church asked if the pastor of XYZ church was a part of our pastors prayer group. I said he was a part of the group and then he replied, “Well then I cannot be part of it.”
I thought, “Really? Have you ever met the guy? Do you know his name? Have you prayed with him before?” He was unwilling to attend a prayer meeting because a pastor from a certain denomination was there!
This is why we bring ministry leaders together in prayer. We do it so they can build real friendships with one another and learn from one another. Don’t judge someone based on their denomination, ministry philosophy, or theology. Instead, hear what informs their convictions and the stories behind their beliefs. You’ll find out you have way more in common than you think.
Unbelievers, This is for You Too
I’m tired of Christians being called narrow minded. It has been my experience that unbelievers are some of the most narrow minded people I know. Just last week I was at another dinner party where a group of my unbelieving friends were making some of the most judgmental comments toward Christians. One guy shared about his favorite bumper sticker which read: “Stop praying in our schools and we’ll thinking in your churches.” Everyone had a big laugh about that.
I thought, “Really, have you not met a thoughtful Christian?” If not, I feel as sorry for you just as I do for my friend in the first story. Get out of your atheistic bubble man. This family avoids Christians (except my wife and I ) like the plague. I thought, “Ask me about what I believe and why.” But alas, maybe I need to start that conversation… and I will.
Justin Christopher is Campus Renewal Ministries’s National Campus Director and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Project and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.