Loving Disagreement – Kathy Khang and Matt Mikalatos

Loving Disagreement: Fighting for Community through the Fruit of the Spirit by Matt Mikalatos, Kathy Khang
Also by this author: The Crescent Stone, The Heartwood Crown, The Story King, Journey to Love: What We Long For, How to Find It, and How to Pass It On
Published by NavPress on October 17, 2023
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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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 as “at war” with each other.

We’re not doomed to be stuck here, though. There is a twofold path out of this destructive war, out of seeing our brothers and sisters as enemies―and into a spacious place of loving each other even as we disagree.

In Loving Disagreement, Kathy Khang and Matt Mikalatos bring unique insight into how the fruit of the Spirit informs our ability to engage in profound difference and conflict with love. As followers of Jesus are planted in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit grows and bears good things in our lives―and relationships and communities are changed.

Have you…like…been online recently? Read the comments of a news article? Had an uncomfortable conversation with that one very opinionated coworker? Maybe you are that one very opinionated coworker? We live in polarizing times. A 2022 Lifeway study found that half of churchgoers preferred a politically homogenous congregation and more than half believed that their church was politically homogenous. Even outside of politics, theological battles rage between denominations as each group calls themselves the “true” believers. Politics, theology, and personal preferences often create deep rifts in communities—how are Christian supposed to overcome these very real divides? Loving Disagreement: Fighting for Community through the Fruit of the Spirit looks at disagreements through the lens of the fruit of the Spirit, showing readers how to engage in thoughtful, meaningful, substantive, and respectful disagreements.

The problem, authors Matt Mikalatos and Kathy Khang write, is not the presence of disagreement or even the voicing of disagreement, it’s the tone which the disagreement takes. Is there a way we can disagree well? Matt Mikalatos has been a missionary, author, and writer for several years but it’s possibly his social media presence that I appreciate about him most. Matt is opinionated. Matt shares those opinions. And Matt disagrees well—and deals appropriately with those who don’t. In the often-toxic spaces of Internet discussions, Matt’s social media is a place I know there’s going to be good and healthy conversation. Because that’s the community Matt has curated. I’m not the only one who noticed. His publisher, NavPress, reached out to him and asked him to write about this subject. They also suggested a coauthor—Kathy Khang. Kathy is an activist and author and—importantly for this conversation—a woman and a minority. Her perspective brings something to the table that Matt can’t offer. The result is a book from two very different people who don’t always agree, who are always friends, and whose friendship is bound up in their mutual desire for justice and peace and love of Jesus.

Loving Disagreement is basically a conversational reflection on the Fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Each chapter is between 12-20 pages and while either Kathy or Matt take the lead in the conversation depending on the chapter, the book is structured as a conversation that focuses on the communal and cultural implications of living out the fruit of the Spirit. This fruit of the Spirit framework is super helpful in structuring the book because it’s pretty difficult to get around or argue against the literal fruit of the Spirit being a bad or insignificant thing.

Khang and Mikalatos’ irenic tone and engaging stories make the book personal as well as global. The two offer practical solutions, often from their own lives, for working out disagreements. When we disagree with someone, it’s often easy to get tunnel vision. You can’t see outside of the problem. Loving Disagreement offers a neutral, third-party, non-emotional perspective, giving readers a paradigm for entering into a disagreement in a different way.

One thing that I should point out is that Loving Disagreement does not necessarily solve disagreements. This isn’t a book about how to argue someone to your side. Nor is it a book about you should lie down and let the other person run you over. It’s a book that teaches readers how to maintain their convictions even as they build bridges. It’s a book that encourages difficult conversations as part of building community. It’s a book that shows us that unity is not the same as uniformity and that there is a great importance in our collective connection as part of the Kingdom of God.

Loving Disagreement is a significant contribution to the discourse on how Christians can engage with one another in a loving, respectful manner, even amid profound disagreements. The book is not only a guide to handling conflict but also an invitation to embrace a more faithful metric for engaging in disagreements through the lens of the fruit of the Spirit. Read this book before you engage in your next social media argument.