What does it look like to love someone you disagree with? Fighting, disagreements, hatred, dissension, and silence. These things seem common in the wider Christian community today. Politics, theology, and even personal preference create seemingly insurmountable rifts. It’s hard not to see ourselves “at war” with each other. We’re not doomed to be stuck here, though.
As part of the Chasing Justice Book Club. As part of the Chasing Justice Book Club, we are excited to feature an excerpt from Kathy Khang’s book, Loving Disagreement.
The fruit of the Spirit isn’t meant to be a secret. Fruit starts with a seed. The plant or tree flowers, and those beauties invite pollinators to do their thing. The beauty of the flower, the potential fruit, draws bees to transfer the pollen, which then triggers the flower to become the fruit. Fruit is food, and food is communal. It is shared and weighs down tables with love and fills the air with the smells of steaming rice, garlic, soy sauce, and chili peppers in various forms. You’ll notice at large tables in Chinese restaurants that there is a lazy Susan at the center of the table. It’s a big one holding all the dishes served because the meal is meant to be communal and shared. That is how I envision the fruit of the Spirit. My faithfulness isn’t meant just for me to get into heaven. It’s meant to draw others into curiosity about Jesus and to be shared because it is beautiful, life-giving.
But so often how faith and spirituality are labeled and lived out in the world is strange and distorted, not beautiful. I often hear politicians and pastors speak about personal rights, free will, and how God might bless America. As of this writing, several politicians are fully owning the label of Christian Nationalist, with the tacit and even vocal approval of their churches and pastors, and Texas public schools require the story of Moses as part of its US history curriculum. All these examples presuppose that Christianity is inherently a public faith. But meanwhile, a long list of politicians and pastors, when caught breaking the law or Christian codes of conduct, appeal to the language of “private faith” to relativize the significance of their scandals. The language of spirituality is regularly used as a tool wielded for political and personal gain for a specific group of people at the expense of others. (It is important to remember here that the US is not a Christian nation. There is no national or state religion, which allows for a diversity of beliefs to coexist and thrive alongside one another.)
Certainly privacy is not on its own an invitational faith, yet our spiritual practices have private components. I think of my elders—my halmoni (grandmother), who is now with Jesus; and my parents, who still pray every morning for their children, son-in-law, seven grandchildren and their future spouses, and future great-grandchildren. The practice in the Korean immigrant church is a communal one—sunrise prayer or sae-byuk gi-doe—but if you are not connected to a Korean Christian or other church community, this type of prayer becomes private by default.
Morning quiet times are a common private spiritual practice, though they once were quite the source of guilt for me simply because I have never been a morning person. I could never have a coherent quiet time before tending to the realities of work and family life. Memorization of Bible verses is generally private, though it can become communal—even competitive, in the form of Bible sword drills. And then there’s the most private of faith practices: tithing and offering. Modern technology allows us to tap into apps and let people see what we’re reading in the Bible and our devotionals, but I have yet to see anyone come up with a Tithing Today app to track and share what we are giving.
And yet the fruit of the Spirit cannot be hidden in the privacy of our lives. Our faithfulness, like all aspects of the Spirit-filled life, is meant to have a noticeable impact on the lives and world around us. Faithfulness supports the Spirit’s work, transforming our reactions and relationships with love and patience and kindness. Our love isn’t fickle—it’s faithful, even when we aren’t “in love.” Our patience isn’t dependent on the circumstance—it’s faithful, even when we are worn thin and at our limit. Our kindness doesn’t play favorites—it’s faithful, freely given even to the people with whom we have the deepest of disagreements. We believe in a faithful God, so we show up. Faithfully.
Taken from Loving Disagreement: Fighting for Community through the Fruit of the Spirit by Matt Mikalatos and Kathy Khang © 2023. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Kathy Khang is a writer, speaker, and yoga teacher. Her journey began in childhood diaries and journals, moved into newsrooms, and then turned toward writing. She is the coauthor with Matt Mikalatos of Loving Disagreement, More than Serving Tea and the author of Raise Your Voice.
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