How Do We Love People Who Believe Differently?

In this episode:

God has been slowly changing me from someone who once avoided people who had a different worldview from mine into someone who wants to engage and learn. In this episode, I give some tips for how this perspective change looks in practical application.

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Inspired Life

I love to listen to audio books while traveling. Recenly, I had the opportunity to listen to two of them on a trip. Both were non-fiction, and neither were written from an expressly Christian worldview. Yet I learned so much from both. In this episode, I talk about how God has been repurposing me as he opens my eyes to see others differently, even the ones who have beliefs that are different from my own.

I was raised in a fairly sheltered Christian environment. My views were conservative from the time I could understand anything about worldview. But as I grew older, I wanted to know why I thought the way I did and not just do what I had been taught.

I questioned both my religious views and my views of society. In the end, my faith grew even stronger in the process, and I have a deeper sense of God’s presence in my life. My questioning wasn’t about walking away from faith but about diving into it deeply enough to have a sure footing on what I believe and a clear sense of who God is.

As I learn to approach faith from a perspective of, “What if I never heard of this before? Would I still believe?” has helped me to develop conviction and passion for my beliefs.

But when we grow our passion about beliefs, we could also become zealous to a point where we don’t want to understand others who are different. Thoughts like this have gone through my head when I'm in that sort of a mindset:

  1. How in the world can’t this person see it? The truth is so obvious!
  2. I should shun the people who are radically different from me.

Stay with me here. I’m not suggesting that I think all roads lead to heaven, or that anything goes when it comes to religious affiliation and organizations. I still have boundaries. But what has changed is that I’m willing to let others take their path of discovery while I take mine. I’m not silent about where I think someone might be merging a pagan practice with Christianity. And I won't endorse any belief that doesn't include God. But I won’t press hard if someone can’t see my point.

I don’t disown or disassociate when God calls me to befriend. It’s all part of how God is repurposing my life and sanding off the rough edges to teach me how to be more like Jesus. I’d like to share a few tips for how that process has looked.


Life, Repurposed

Tips for Understanding Someone Who Isn’t Like You

  1. Ask questions with a gentle approach. Questions are fine, but rather than demanding an answer, I have learned to cultivate genuine curiosity and a desire to know more about them. Not because I plan to change to their beliefs, but because I want to know them as a human being. I’m open to someone asking me about my beliefs too.
  2. Set aside fear and pursue love. I devoted a whole episode to this recently. See episode number 33 on Love Over Fear.
  3. Listen and learn. Read articles from multiple points of view. Collect information from more than just your favorite sources (those can be biased). I’m going to share the book in the resources section, but when I listened to Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor's Struggle for Home in Rural America by Dr. by Ayaz Virji, I learned that even though the author's beliefs are different from mine, and I disagree with some of them, he also doesn’t believe the way that some news stations would want me to think he believes. More on that in the resources at the end. Listening and learning has taught me something that I have missed in my understanding.
  4. Look for common threads. I might have a totally different stance on sacraments of the church, the Bible, politics, etc. but I can still enjoy discussion and pursuit of social connections with someone if I don’t use our relationship to press my views. (If someone presses their beliefs, that could end a relationship for me. I don't do angry interactions with pointing fingers.)
  5. Apologize when you offend, but don’t be ashamed of your differences. I don’t pretend to think the same way as someone who is politically or religiously different from me. But I am not ashamed of being different. I have to keep my thoughts and emotions in check though, because without realizing it, I can drift toward making excuses when I cross a line and offend someone else. There is no excuse for mean behavior, even when we disagree. If I cross that line, it doesn't compromise my beliefs and integrity to admit it.


Recommended Resources

The book that I want to recommend is Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor's Struggle for Home in Rural America by Dr. by Ayaz Virji. It’s published by Convergent Books. Convergent Books is the newest religion imprint from the Crown Publishing Group. It publishes nonfiction for progressive and mainline Christians who demand an open, inclusive and culturally engaged exploration of issues related to faith. Many Christians won’t agree with everything that is written under this imprint. But if you’re reading to try to understand another person, I encourage you to be willing to stretch yourself.

Let me tell you about Love Thy Neighbor.

In 2013, Dr. Ayaz Virji left a comfortable job at an East Coast hospital and moved to a town of 1,400 in Minnesota, feeling called to address the shortage of doctors in rural America. But in the 2016 election, his children faced anti-Muslim remarks at school and some of his most loyal patients began questioning whether he belonged in the community.

Virji wanted out. But in 2017, just as he was lining up a job in Dubai, a local pastor invited him to speak at her church and address misconceptions about what Muslims practice and believe. That invitation has grown into a well-attended lecture series that has changed hearts and minds across the state, while giving Virji a new vocation that he never would have expected.

In Love Thy Neighbor, Virji relates his personal story of faith and personal conviction, and he shares a message to help grow understanding in America's heartland.

I found it enlightening and helpful. We don’t believe the same way, but he doesn’t set out to try to make it seem that way. Instead, he tries to help the reader see that some of the very same accusations that have been thrown his way could also apply to Christians.

As you live your own repurposed life, I encourage you to look for where your own assumptions get in the way of seeing people as humans. Seek to understand before trying to convert someone to your conviction.


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(Please note: books posted here on my blog are purely because I want to share them. Sometimes I receive free copies for review, and other times I purchase the books. Some I get from the library. Either way, any endorsement I offer here on the blog is simply because I want to talk about the book. ) *This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. I sell my ebook via Amazon but I’m also a part of their “Associates” (i.e. affiliate) program which pays a commission on books and any other Amazon products people purchase via my links.

Michelle Rayburn is the author of The Repurposed and Upcycled Life: When God Turns Trash to Treasure, as well as a small group Bible study to accompany the book. Learn more about these and her other books here. A sample chapter of the book and Bible study are available for free download.

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This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. I sell my ebook via Amazon but I’m also a part of their “Associates” (i.e. affiliate) program which pays a commission on books and any other Amazon products people purchase via my links.

Posted in Articles, Books & Resources, Podcast Episodes.