canceled–navigating differences in relationships
Today’s post starts with a preface:
As a leader in ministry, I’m convinced there are some who believe better about me than I am and think I know more than I do.
I have questions come in that instead of having an answer, I find myself struggling with similar questions because though Scripture gives us many clear truths, there are circumstances where the application isn’t as cut and dry.
That would be true of the question I’m addressing today and not so much because I don’t know the correct answer but more because I’m not sure I always know the best application—How do we actually live it out? Because the truth is worthless for transformation in our lives without application (See James 1:22).
Preface over. Now to the question:
Question: How can we navigate family/friend dynamics with different beliefs (non-believers and those who follow other religious teachings) than us in a healthy way while standing firm in Christ?
1. Don’t cancel them.
It will come as no surprise to anyone reading this that there are believers who WILL NOT agree with what I’m about to write. Depending on their level of disagreement with me, some will cancel me—unlike me on social media, unsubscribe to my emails, and decide I’m disqualified as a ministry leader.
I’m not trying to sound melodramatic, but it should be acknowledged that the cancel culture is alive and well among the Big C Church, bringing me back to the question.
How can we navigate family/friend dynamics with different beliefs (non-believers and those who follow other religious teachings) than us in a healthy way while standing firm in Christ?
There are misguided (yet still professing) Christians whose answer would be “cancel them” because they hold to differing religious beliefs or values. There are Christians who I know and know well who would respond by cutting off (or at very least condemn on social media) those who hold to a different gospel or who interpret Scripture out of context or with bias.
On the surface, this approach doesn’t sound like the worst idea. Separating (or setting apart) yourself from differing beliefs to protect and not allow the enemy to deceive or confuse makes logical sense.
I’m all for logic until it contradicts the very words of Jesus, who came for those with different beliefs and followed other religious teachings.
I recently heard a pastor teach on a parable in Matthew 13 in light of our current cancel culture. I wrestled with today’s question in light of Jesus’ teaching in this particular parable.
“He presented another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. The landowner’s slaves came to him and said, ‘ Master, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where do the weeds come from?’
‘An enemy did this!’ he told them.
“‘So, do you want us to go and gather them up?’ the slaves asked him.
“‘No,’ he said. ‘When you gather up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time, I’ll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but store the wheat in my barn.’”Matthew 13:24-30
There seems a good chance you just skimmed the passage and may have missed a very key question the slaves asked the master when the weeds started growing amongst the wheat. They said,
“So, do you want us to go and gather them up?”
Our version today might sound something like,
“do you want us to cancel them, condemn them, cut them loose?”
The Master (Jesus) responded in verses 29-30 (paraphrased by me),
“Let both grow together until the harvest, or you might pull out some of the good wheat in your attempt to remove the bad.”
It can be tempting to shut ourselves in a bubble and cancel everything and everyone who disagrees with us and disagrees with Jesus. But Jesus didn’t cut them off, and He told us not to as well.
Canceling the culture is dangerous and can cause much more harm than good, even while having good intentions.
2. Before you start disagreeing with someone, first find something to affirm in their statement.
The Question: How can we navigate family/friend dynamics with different beliefs (non-believers and those who follow other religious teachings) than us in a healthy way while standing firm in Christ?
The question alludes to disagreement.
Jesus doesn’t suggest in the parable of the Wheat and the Weeds, for the wheat to become like the weeds. Throughout Scripture, we are called to be set apart, the light of the world, the salt of the earth, ambassadors for Christ, I could go on and on.
Jesus IS NOT instructing believers to dilute their faith or compromise on truths. But the question is about navigating relationships with those who disagree with your faith and practice different religions.
But, you can interact with someone who shares contradicting beliefs by coming together on what you do agree.
If I were reading these words not as the one writing them but as the one amid a relationship where I found myself frustrated and unsure, I might feel defeated, uncertain if there is ANY common ground. There are plenty of relationships that have a hard time finding affirmations because of differences. However, this is 100% when I would point you to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit living inside you.
The Spirit is given to:
- guide you (ask Him to point you in the right direction)
- produce His fruit in you (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control)
If you find yourself overwhelmed by differences:
- lean into the Spirit
- confess prideful, judgmental (even Pharisaical) attitudes
- ask God to change your heart and give you HIS eyes to see
- ask questions of your family/friends with the sole intent of finding places where you can affirm.
3. Trust that the same Holy Spirit at work in you can move in the heart of your family/friends, and YOU ARE NOT ANYONE’S HOLY SPIRIT. When someone believes differently from you, it does not diminish who God is or His capability.
Apart from Jesus, you are a weed, not the wheat. Cling tightly to the joy of your rescue story and wait expectantly and with hope for your family/friend to experience the same sweet rescue from weed to wheat, you have experienced.
I acknowledge this isn’t easy. Spiritual differences in relationships are messy, heart business and business that the enemy would enjoy thwarting by giving us fleshly eyes and attitudes. But God invites you to join Him at work by allowing the weeds (non-believers) to grow alongside the wheat (you).
Question: How would you answer today’s question? How have you navigated some of these challenging relationships with those who have different beliefs in a healthy way?