I think it’s fair to say that 2020 taught most of us that we are not good at loving our neighbours. We discovered that when our neighbours have different political views to us, or they have a different stance on the importance of masks and social distancing, or their feelings about racism differ to ours, then we become hateful very quickly. We get into dehumanising debates on Facebook, or we express undignified outrage to our friends, or we have thoughts about people that do not reflect the reality that they are made in the image and likeness of God.
I am certainly guilty of all of this. In fact, I’ve had to drastically reduce my use of social media, in large part because it was becoming an occasion of sin for these reasons. I have prayed often to see the people whose words or opinions arouse fiery rage within me as sons and daughters of God – in fact, as Jesus Himself, incarnate in every single human. I fail every day.
However, I realised that being in a mixed marriage has made it a little bit easier for me than it might be for some other people. I am used to fundamentally disagreeing with somebody, yet still loving them. I routinely acknowledge that someone who holds a belief that I find to be deeply problematic is able to model virtue in a different domain. I do not have the “luxury” of having my point of view affirmed by the people I hold dearest.
Although it would certainly feel nicer and more comfortable to have my husband (and my friends and family) agree with me about fundamental questions in life, I’m not sure that it would be as good for my soul. If the people surrounding me had the same beliefs about the sanctity and dignity of human life from womb to tomb, then it would be much easier to demonise the people who do not. If we all agreed that the Catholic Church teaches the Truth, then I wouldn’t have much reason to examine my beliefs and test them against other narratives. If I didn’t trust that God loves my husband even though he does not accept or follow the teachings of the Church, it would be much harder for me to believe that God loves every single person, whether or not they love Him.
As I said, I certainly have a lot of work to do when it comes to loving my neighbour. I believe, however, that being in a mixed marriage has left me with no choice but to love the people who believe things that I find hard to stomach.