Can We Be Friends with People Who Are Different from Us?

It isn’t often I agree with Ellen DeGeneres and Elton John, but recently I found myself approving of their comments.

DeGeneres was criticized for attending a football game with former President George W. Bush. She’s a lesbian and was hanging out with someone who probably upholds a Christian sexual ethic and thereby believes homosexual sex is immoral. Apparently, that didn’t bother her (nor should it) to the point where she would refuse to attend a game with him. She said in her defense,

I’m friends with George Bush. In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have.... Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them. When I say, “Be kind to one another,” I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone.

Can I get a hearty “Amen?”

Elton John came to DeGeneres’s defense. “I admire Ellen for standing up and saying what she said.... George Bush has made a lot of mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes. Ellen DeGeneres has made a lot of mistakes…. People need to come together…. They need to respect people’s view on life.”

Can I get a second “Amen?”

Now, I don’t know if they follow this principle consistently or have backtracked on their statements (I don’t follow these people closely), but isn’t that what many Christians have been saying for decades now? We might not share the same beliefs as people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc., but that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends with them or love them. Christians have been claiming that’s an appropriate ethic and living it out with real people for years.

But a noisy segment of the population tells us that’s not possible. Anything less than total acceptance of their “identity” and “who they are” means, in their opinion, we don’t love them. In fact, we’re told we’re hateful. Unfortunately, many people adopt this same belief.

My hope, though, is that the people who don’t believe friendship and love are possible with those who differ on significant issues will listen to DeGeneres and John on this point. Christ modeled this behavior while on earth. That’s why I see that most Christians genuinely love people, even those with whom they disagree.

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Alan Shlemon

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