Max Lucado: How to really love your neighbor… yes, the one who is nothing like you

You drive a hybrid; he chugs around in a gas-guzzling, air-polluting truck.

You vote red and she likes donkeys.

You love your husband and she lives with her wife. 

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You and your “opposite you.”

“Opposite yous” can drain your joy tank. There is a tension, an awkwardness. Anger, low-grade, or high flame, can flare. Inability to manage the relationship can lead to isolation, prejudice, and bigotry.

What if your “opposite you” is your boss? Your next-door neighbor? Your coworker? What if your “opposite you” is your parent or child? How do we respond? Ignore them? Share a meal with them? Leave the room when they enter? Ask them to leave so we can stay? Discuss our differences? Dismiss our differences? Argue?

I wonder if the best answer might be found in this short admonition from the Bible: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Rom.15:7). This verb for “accept” means more than tolerate or coexist. It means to welcome into one’s fellowship and heart. The word implies the warmth and kindness of genuine love.

Could we not use some of that? Tackiness and vitriol seem to be the order of the day. Perhaps a few of us could strike a different tone?

Reserve judgment. Let every person you meet be a new person in your mind. None of this labeling or preconceived notions. Pigeonholes work for pigeons, not for people.

Raleigh Washington is an African-American minister who has dedicated much of his life to racial reconciliation. He says that the most important phrase in bridge-building is this: Help me understand what it’s like to be you.[1]

Help me understand what it’s like to be a teenager in this day and age.

Help me understand what it is like to be born into affluence.

Help me understand the challenges you face as an immigrant.

Help me understand what it’s like to be a female in a gray-flannelled corporation.

Then sit back and listen. Really listen. Listening is a healing balm for a raw relationship. (A friend admitted to me, “I often appear to be listening, when actually I am reloading.”)

“Be in agreement, understanding each other, loving each other as family, being kind and humble” (1 Pet. 4:8).

Resist the urge to shout. We did a lot of shouting on our elementary school playground. All the boys in Mrs. Amburgy’s first-grade class bonded together to express our male superiority. We met daily at recess and, with arms interlocked, marched around the playground shouting, “Boys are better than girls! Boys are better than girls!” Frankly, I didn’t agree, but I enjoyed the fraternity.

The girls, in response, formed their own club. They paraded around the school announcing their disdain for boys. “Girls are better than boys.” We were a happy campus.

Shouting at someone else might feel good. But does it do any good?

It seems to me that there is a lot of shouting going on.

On the airwaves, shouting.

On bumper stickers, shouting.

On the news broadcasts, shouting.

On social media, shouting.

All sides, shouting.

“We are better than you. We are smarter than you. We are holier than you.” Is it possible to have an opinion without having a fit?

“Do not argue about opinions” (Rom. 14:5). It is one thing to have an opinion; it’s something else to have a fight. When you sense the volume increasing and the heat rising, close your mouth. It’s better to keep quiet and keep a friend than to be loud and lose one.

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Let’s reason together. Let’s work together. And, if discussion fails, let love succeed. “Above all things have fervent love among yourselves, for love shall cover a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8 New Scofield Bible). If love covers a multitude of sins, can it not cover a multitude of opinions?

Besides, if you are kind to your opposite you and I am the same with mine and others are the same with theirs, won’t we eventually be kinder to each other? Who knows, a kindness revolution might break out.