This weekend, dozens of Christians from a Christian university walked out of a Christian graduation ceremony where a Christian leader was giving a Christian commencement address. But tell me, does this seem “Christian” to you?This weekend, dozens of Christians from a Christian university walked out of a Christian graduation ceremony where a Christian leader was giving a Christian commencement address. But tell me, does this seem Christian to you? Click To Tweet
Ed Stetzer, in his book “Christians in the Age of Outrage” says that the opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s disgust. And nothing communicates disgust like your back.
We might say that we’re showing love to one group by turning our backs on another. But here’s the question: Who made us God over which people deserve love, and which deserve a walkout?
As I’ve been writing my upcoming book, Comparison Girl, I’ve been deeply convicted about the disgust that often shows up on my own face, or is demonstrated by my back.
I’m disgusted with spouses who cheat. I’m disgusted with kids who lie. I’m disgusted with the lady in the express lane who has more than twenty items in her cart. “Just look at her!” I say, with disgust. But I fail to see that my contempt is insulting, as well. Each eye-roll, each horrified gasp, and each facial expression of disgust I direct toward another human being is offensive to God, their Maker.
If God has clearly called something sin, we should too. But we should be very careful about inserting disgust. My disgust always minimizes my own sin and amplifies the other person’s. Yet God only gave me one person’s sin to deal with: my own. Everyone else, he gave me to love.
Yet how do I show love when I strongly disagree? Especially when I disagree with other Christians? We have to acknowledge that love can be love without agreeing. Good grief, I’m not sure I even have one Christian friend who completely agrees with me about everything. I’ve got to learn to love people who see things differently. Plus God demonstrated his love for us while we were still sinners–before we agreed with him about anything. (Rom. 5:8)
Love can also be love without being passive. Sometimes love does take a stand or even makes some noise. But when disgust is added to love, it’s like adding screams to a whisper. The love gets overpowered and forgotten.
Disgust Factor Challenge
In an attempt to work on extracting disgust from my face and my heart, I invited a few friends to join me in a 3 week “Disgust Factor Challenge”. We each agreed to filter out any disgust from our communication and our thoughts, the we reported in each week with what we had learned. Here are what a few friends had to say:
- I was tempted to be disgusted with what a friend posted on Facebook, but I prayed for her instead. I realized that God is the only one who changes hearts and my disgust only hurts me, by making me bitter, judgmental and critical.
- I sensed that my spouse was disgusted with me because I made us late, so naturally I dished some disgust right back. Disgust sparks disgust. We catch disgust from each other.
- My disgust does not help me win friends and influence people. The moment I insert disgust, I’ve forfeited the conversation. We can’t hear each other anymore.
- Disgust is pride.
This three week experiment showed me so much about myself and the impact disgust has on my relationships. But probably the biggest eye-opener for me was the enlarged influence I have with people when I drop the disgust. I know that seems obvious, but for me, it was powerful.
I realized that at least in part, my disgust was aimed at saying, “This isn’t right. Things should change.” I’m guessing that this is at least partly what the Christians who walked out on another Christian were trying to say last weekend. But change is most possible when I stop turning my back and start showing my face–filled with empathy, respect, and love. Then (and only then) the conversation can continue, because we can hear each other without the disgust screaming over our love.
“I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:2-3)
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)
UPDATE: In sweet contrast to the students who walked out (mentioned early in this post), here’s a video that someone took of those who stayed. The entire graduating class is arm in arm, singing the Doxology together–not because they agree on everything, but because they are brothers and sisters in Christ who want to “maintain unity of the Spirit in the pond of peace”, even (or especially) when they don’t agree.
Thanks to all who have shared and commented on this post. It’s a conversation worth having and I’m thankful you’re willing to have it.