How are friendships forged and formed?
There are many ways, of course, from the traditional to the unorthodox, but C.S. Lewis once put it this way:
Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another: "What! You too?"
Dan Cathy is the president of Chick-fil-A and the son of the company's founder, Truett Cathy. Dan is also a friend of mine, and I was reminded again this week of how much I appreciate the man when I saw a column about him from a homosexual activist in the Huffington Post.
I spent New Year's Eve at the red-blooded, all-American epicenter of college football: at the Chick-fil-A Bowl, next to Dan Cathy, as his personal guest. ... I have come to know him and Chick-fil-A in ways that I would not have thought possible. ... How could I dare think to have a relationship with a man and a company that have advocated against who I am; who would take apart my family in the name of "traditional marriage"; whose voice and views represented exactly the opposite of those of the students for whom I advocate every day? Dan is the problem, and Chick-fil-A is the enemy, right?
Mr. Windmeyer went on to write that Dan had reached out to him with no agenda other than to listen and talk with him. He continued:
Through all this, Dan and I shared respectful, enduring communication and built trust. His demeanor has always been one of kindness and openness. Even when I continued to directly question his public actions and the funding decisions, Dan embraced the opportunity to have dialogue and hear my perspective ...
Our mutual hope was to find common ground if possible, and to build respect no matter what. We learned about each other as people with opposing views, not as opposing people. ... I learned about his wife and kids and gained an appreciation for his devout belief in Jesus Christ and his commitment to being "a follower of Christ" more than a "Christian." Dan expressed regret and genuine sadness when he heard of people being treated unkindly in the name of Chick-fil-A -- but he offered no apologies for his genuine beliefs about marriage.
I've been fortunate to enjoy similar experiences and interactions in my role as president of Focus on the Family. I have to admit, it's not easy at first to call someone that you know has an unfavorable opinion about you, let alone even a potentially deep seeded hatred for you personally.
But sitting down and talking with people with whom you have fundamental ideological and theological differences is no sin. Sometimes I think we forget we're all sinners, that we've all fallen short and are in need of a Savior.
How can we be used by the Lord to help turn hearts toward Him if we're not willing to sit and listen to the hearts of those who don't acknowledge Him as Lord?
As Dan has shown, we don't have to compromise our principles while forging fellowship with others. Sometimes we just have to begin by listening.
And after all, why should we be afraid to reach out?
"When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord," wrote Solomon, "He makes even his enemies live at peace with him" (Proverbs 16:7).
I'm proud to be friends with Dan and the entire Cathy family and greatly admire the leadership and example they've shown throughout the years.
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