How to Approach People We Disagree With | Christ Fellowship Church
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How to Approach People We Disagree With

A counter-culture way to handle conflict.

It’s hours later, you’re in your car, and it hits you—the perfect comeback. Why didn’t I think of that? You kick yourself for not being quick-witted in the heat of the moment. 

We can all relate to the nagging feeling of wanting to be right, have the last word, or prove ourselves. Yet, it seems we are better at disagreeing with hypothetical people while alone in our car than we are in real life. 

If we take our cues from the world, there is no shortage of comeback lines, winning debate strategies, and tribalism. But the way of Jesus is counter-culture—He models mercy, forgiveness, humility, and servanthood. So how do we approach people we disagree with in a way that reflects Jesus? 

Here are a few tips: 

1. Approach People With Humility
We hate being wrong, but let’s face it, humans have been wrong about many things. We’ve been wrong about gravity, Pluto, slavery, the earth-centered universe, and even fad diets. We need to develop the habit of asking ourselves and God, “How might I be wrong?” or even better, “Is my heart in the wrong place?” When it comes to our relationships, pride creeps in when we assume we have it all figured out and the other person doesn’t. Pride is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to conflict resolution so it’s no surprise that Jesus teaches about humility many times. 

In Matthew 18:4, Jesus says, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” And in Matthew 23: 12, He says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Humility is important to Jesus. If we aspire to live like Him, we must approach difficult conversations with the right heart. Even if we are 100% right, with an arrogant posture, our message will be 100% ignored. If we focus on a heart of humility, we have a much greater chance at a fruitful conversation. 

2. Seek First to Understand
Steven Covey says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” 

In an age where everyone wants to solve problems with a quick text, it’s vital to grow empathy through face-to-face connection. Taking the time to listen to someone’s perspective and story will not only disarm them but also increase the likelihood of your influence. 

Let’s face it—our country isn’t doing a great job mastering the art of listening. David Brooks said, “Over the last half-century, we've turned politics from a practical way to solve common problems into a cultural arena to display resentments.” Yikes. If believers aim to live counter-culture like Jesus, we must lead the way in listening, understanding, and showing empathy despite our differences. 

Jesus went out of His way to have a conversation with a Samaritan woman at the well, even though Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans (John 4:1-42). He wasn’t afraid of their differences, and He didn’t shy away from sharing the truth. As a result, many Samaritans came to believe in Jesus. 

3. Choose Kingdom Culture Over Cancel Culture 
Our society frequently cancels people they disagree with, but it isn’t the Kingdom way. Jesus came to build bridges, not blockades. Our aim should not be to “unfriend” or separate ourselves from everyone we disagree with. 

Decades ago, social psychologist Gordon Allport wrote that doing life together with people of other groups reduces prejudice and changes minds. He observed that emotional bonds are formed and new conceptions of who is “us” and who is “them” come into being. It sounds like Jesus knew what He was doing when He established the Church—He knew life is better in community. Of course, we will have different personalities, ethnicities, strengths, opinions, backgrounds, and worldviews, but our love for one another is essential. 

Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

So, how do we approach people we disagree with? We approach them with humility, seeking to understand, and with a Kingdom culture of grace. As for those moments in the car…we won’t need to kick ourselves any longer if we’re focused on extending Jesus’ love instead of one-liners.