It’s almost turkey time! And while I love pretty much everything Thanksgiving brings—the counting of blessings, the watching of football, even the holding of noses as I prepare Robbie’s must-have sauerkraut—I know that wherever two or more are gathered, conversation can happen.
Maybe it’s an as-yet-undiscovered tryptophan side-effect, but Thanksgiving can bring out all the opinions. The brother who’s positive you voted wrong. The aunt who wonders if you’ve gained weight (and should you really eat all that pie?). The child who comes home from college and proclaims herself vegan so “can we please have something besides turkey this year?”
Truth be told, it’s not just holiday gatherings that highlight our differences. We’ve been at odds with each other since…well, since Abel and Cain. And yet, as believers, we are called to love one another. To value others above ourselves. To make “every effort” to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
All of these passages—and countless others—underscore the fact that God wants his children to get along. And I know the holiday wasn’t even invented when he was writing, but I can’t help but think Paul might have had some sort of prophetic foretaste of Thanksgiving when he reached out to the Romans:
Let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault.…
When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don’t eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love. (Romans 14:19-21)
Get along with each other. Use encouraging words. Don’t feed your own face, but share Jesus with love.
Don’t feed your own face.
A helpful Thanksgiving hint, to be sure. But how do we do all of this in real life, with real people? How do we (quoting Paul again) “welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department”? (Romans 14:1) How do we ensure that our conversations—at Thanksgiving and throughout the year—are colored by kindness instead of the “gotcha” mindset that listens not with a desire to understand, but with the intent to counter or correct?
I’m sure there are plenty of biblically based steps we might take, but here are three tried-and-true strategies for having good conversations with people who don’t always think like we do.
First, we can remember that when Jesus asked God to bring us to “complete unity”, he didn’t mean we’d all be the same. Unity allows for plenty of differences (everything from political ideologies to preferences in cranberry sauce; anybody else’s husband think it “has” to come out of a can?), while recognizing that those things don’t define us. What defines us is our identity as God’s beloved. As his image-bearers. As people who can love, 1 John 4:19 reminds us, because God first loved us.
Second, we can do the Philippians 2:3-4 thing and be humble. There’s nothing wrong with holding strong opinions. But let’s value the interests of others, knowing that additional information might sharpen or enhance our own perspective. And if we remain unconvinced about a particular topic, we can borrow a line from my friend’s ever-diplomatic grandmother: “You may be right.” (That’s a great way to wrap a discussion, especially when served with a smile and followed with something like, “Would you care for some more pumpkin pie?”)
And finally (you knew this was coming), we can pray. We can ask God to keep us mindful of verses like Proverbs 18:2 (“Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions”). We can trust him to “set a guard over our lips” (Psalm 141:3) And we can pray for an extra helping of grace and peace as we gather together.
Which is, in fact, how Peter began one of his letters. “Grace and peace,” he wrote, “be yours in abundance.”
If you’d like a visible reminder of that little—but powerful!—prayer, pop over to Instagram or Facebook, where you can screenshot that graphic in my stories and use it as a Lock Screen for your phone:
May grace and peace be yours in abundance. (2 Peter 1:2)
P.S. Every year, people ask me to share the recipe for Robbie’s sauerkraut. And every year, I start with a warning: You’ll need one hand to fix the “beloved” side dish and the other to get a firm grip on your nose.
Here you go:
Fill a saucepan about one-third of the way up with water.
Drain one or two cans of sauerkraut and add them to the pot.
Mix in a spoonful of bacon drippings, a splashy of Worcester sauce, some salt and pepper, and ¼ cup of brown sugar.
Cover and simmer for several hours, stirring occasionally (and adding more water if needed) until the entire house reeks.
(And pssst. If you want more prayers you can use to love well—not just at Thanksgiving, but throughout the year—you’ll find an entire chapter on the subject in Praying the Scriptures for Your Life. No time to read during the holiday rush? Download an easy-to-use prayer calendar here.)