In my previous post, I looked at the importance of listening to those we disagree with. For many, that’s not high on the list of priorities. That’s understandable; it’s hard to listen to someone who has a completely different take on an issue of great importance to us. But I think it’s important to remember: listening to opposing viewpoints doesn’t signal uncertainty. On the contrary, I believe those who listen best are those who are most in tune with their core convictions. Those who reach out best are those who best know what they believe. On the other hand, those who hide behind facebook posts or only listen to their own echo chamber may be the ones who feel most fragile in their beliefs. Yelling at others isn’t usually a sign of confidence, but fear. The refusal to engage another person is often rooted in the inability to do so.

So, it seems to me, those of us who are Christian should be the ones who are most able to lead by loving others, and listening to them. Because our confidence is in Christ, we can hold faithfully to our belief in him AND love all people. If we’re serious about following Jesus, how could we do otherwise?

Years ago, Donna Red Wing invited Bob Vander Plaats to share coffee. Donna was a prominent LGBT activist; Bob is president of an organization that advocates for traditional Christian values. It’s not hard to see how awkward it would have been for Donna to invite Bob to sit down together – and equally difficult for Bob to join her. But she offered the invite, and he accepted.

In the simple act of getting to know each other over coffee, they had the opportunity to see each other as people – not as policies. Their first sit-down led to others, and through repeated conversations, Bob & Donna saw the humanity in each other – and over time, they actually became friends.

In the video, Donna says, “When people have the courage to show you who they are, something happens…. We can disagree without being disagreeable.”

For his part, Bob shares, “The only regret in all of that is that I wasn’t the one to ask her out for coffee. …I kind of feel like I should have.”

Watch the video. See if it doesn’t speak to you – not about what you believe, but about how you approach those who don’t believe what you believe.

Donna died two years ago. By that point, Donna’s friendship with Bob had grown to the place where she had arranged for Bob to deliver the eulogy at her funeral. It’s 11 minutes of humility, grace, and humor – and the fruit that results when we learn to listen to each other. I mean, it’s almost unimaginable that someone like Bob would be asked to speak at a service for someone like Donna. In our deeply polarized society, it’s the kind of thing that just doesn’t happen. Except it did.

So, how did Bob & Donna go from enemies to eulogies? How do we go from turning away to turning toward – from distance & anger to conversation & relationship? It happened – it still happens – when we are willing to listen and learn. It happens when we choose to lead with love.

Bob Vander Plaats gives eulogy for Donna Red Wing


2 thoughts on “An Unlikely Friendship

  1. I, too, kept wishing that the Christian had been the first one to reach out. We MUST demonstrate God’s love. Who wants to hear about a Jesus that no one sees?

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