Some time ago one of our regular readers requested that I write something regarding “How Should Christians disagree with each other?
Experience tells us that good men and women with honorable intentions can have disagreements. We can hold conflicting opinions. And reach different conclusions. The challenge is how do we get along when we disagree?
(1) Be Respectful.
This Bible principle is seen in many commands regarding relationships but is succinctly stated in I Peter 2:17, “Show proper respect to everyone.” It is possible to disagree with another’s position, yet respect them as a person. Respect involves honor, esteem, and deference to others. It values others. Treats them with dignity. And is gracious.
(2) Stay Calm.
“He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit” (Prov 17:26). Part of the problem when we differ is one or both parties “losing their cool.” Inner calm has to do with our attitude, disposition, and outlook. And it will properly issue itself in words and deeds that are appropriate to the occasion.
The age-old proverb “A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger,” is applicable when answering an argument (Prov 15:1).
(3) Allow for differing opinions.
The Bible tells us there is room for differing opinions. One of the first-century issues dealt with the eating meat that had been offered to idols. It wasn’t wrong. But some who were weak in the faith felt like it was. The apostle Paul instructs Christians in Corinth and in Rome to respect the weaker brother. There was room for both opinions in the Lord’s body.
There are so many areas of personal preference both within the scope of congregational autonomy and our individual actions that we must be careful not to make a law where God has not legislated.
Times of Lord’s day worship. Frequency of meetings. The order of the assembly. The type of songs. The length of the service. These all may fall within the area of opinion.
Furthermore, our political beliefs. Career choices. Parenting styles. Personal hobbies. Favorite sports teams. Lifestyle decisions. And use of technology. All of these are dictated by personal and family choice. Let’s not fracture the Family of God over such opinions.
(4) Speak the Truth in love.
There are some things clearly delineated in scripture as doctrinal. There is no wiggle room. They are plainly stated. And clearly declared as Truth. However, even when discussing such matters, we should do so with love (Eph 4:15).
If we’ve forgotten what love means, then read 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient with those whom we disagree. It is kind in its presentation of truth. Its arguments are not offered in anger. Its presentation is accompanied by good manners. And its motives are not steeped in pride.
(5) Apply the “Golden Rule.”
When we disagree, an application of Jesus’ challenge in Matthew 7:12 ought to help. “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Don’t assume the worse. Don’t resort to ad hominem arguments. Attacking the person instead of addressing the issue does not answer the argument. Be reasonable. Be fair. And give others the benefit of the doubt.
Truth has nothing to fear from honest investigation. Let us pursue it openly. Sincerely. And honorably. Furthermore, we should always be willing to set aside old opinions for new and better ideas that fall within the realm of Truth. And we should never become alienated over personal preferences.
Sadly it’s often too easy to ignore these guidelines when posting in social media. We can forget that the one posting with whom we disagree is a real person with feelings and should be treated decently and accorded dignity.
Finally, the advice of the 17th century English essayist Joseph Addison might be of some help. “If men would consider not so much wherein they differ, as wherein they agree, there would be far less uncharitableness and angry feeling in the world.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman