What To Do When You Disagree With A Fellow Believer
I always knew that particular sound. The one that said someone was angry. It might be that someone stepped on his feelings, it might just be that someone stepped on his cookie, but he wasn't happy. It was an angry brother.
And when my boys were young and prone to disagreements, I was hearing that angry cry far too often and became a little desperate in looking for a way to help them move past their differences and celebrate the sheer fact that they were brothers. I often tried lecturing, but I knew they really didn't need to hear a lot of preaching. They knew everything I was trying to tell them already, they just didn't want to do it in the heat of being wronged. I needed something else.
And that's how it was born. A simple tactic, really, but it seemed like it was magic in how effective it was. First, I would make them stop.
"Just stop what you're doing and look at each other." This was usually followed by unhappy stares, but also silence, so that was a win.
"Now, put your arms around each other." This would be followed by grumpy grunts, with chubby arms stretching to circle around someone's midsection.
"Okay, repeat after me." Silence.
"I like you."
Sometimes a pause, but eventually two voices in unison, "I like you."
"I love you."
Another pause, followed by, "I love you."
"I highly respect you."
Getting faster now. "I highly respect you."
"I greatly esteem you."
I'm not sure they even knew what this word meant when we started, but they figured out by context it wasn't the slam they were wanting to give. "I greatly esteem you."
"And I think you smell good."
And that's where it worked. Every. Single. Time.
Because when you're a pre-school boy, you just instinctively know that not only does your brother decidedly not smell good, you don't either.
So somehow, saying those words produced giggles and guffaws and sheepish faces.
And after the shared laughter, there was some kind of bond, some grubby little olive branch that helped them move past the offense.
Granted, we still sat down and hashed things out when they needed to be, but this simple act put it all in perspective. We are family. We don't just love each other because we have to, we like each other and we respect each other. We speak to each other with honor.
And in this tense political season, with harsh words flying all around our culture's airwaves, I find myself wanting to have a family meeting with other followers of Jesus Christ. Because we are family. And even when we disagree, we shouldn't be grudging with our affection. Jesus calls us to a much higher level of accountability than that.
In fact, his words were "love each other as I have loved you." (John 15:12) And I am so grateful that my Jesus didn't love me begrudgingly, holding out his affection and respect for me until I towed the line in every aspect. If He had waited until my thoughts were in perfect alignment with His before He allowed Himself to esteem me, or even like me, I would still be lonely and afraid apart from Him.
But, instead, He took me as I was. And He loved me in the most honoring way any person could love another. He gave His life for me.
And so, if I could call that huge family meeting for Christ's brothers and sisters, I'd make them put their arms around each other and look each other in the eye.
I'd remind them that no one group has it all figured out. There's always places where we don't yet smell so great. But, it doesn't mean we won't. And it doesn't mean we should be treated without honor while we search for the bubble bath.
"I like you. I love you. I highly respect you. I greatly esteem you. And I think you smell good---it must be "the fragrance of Christ." (2 Corinthians 2:15)