How To Differ Constructively

My friend and preaching colleague, Steve Wolfgang, recently posted a 1974 article by the late Robert Turner from his Plain Talk paper. It’s definitely worthy of wide circulation.

Read. Profit. Apply. And share.

Brethren frequently differ with one another, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. It may indicate conviction, and our concern that others share our understanding of God’s word. Differences spring from various degrees of learning or experience, or from opinions expressed on moot questions. They may be avenues for greater learning and service, as all true saints will seek to keep differences within constructive bounds.

But we must know HOW to differ constructively. Who will write a “How To-” study with teacher’s manual and work books? The need is here, in a wide field. If I were writing such material, I think I would begin by saying that we may differ with equals—on a compatible basis as neighbors. Childish weakness is evident in those who consider all with whom they differ as blood enemies. We must “grow up.”

Second: make all possible effort to understand the other’s position. Can you state his affirmation so he will accept it? You may find that you agree on the principle, and differ only on its application to some practice. Say so, and study accordingly.

Next: try to understand why your opponent thinks as he does. Seek, by reasoning, to walk in his shoes. This will improve your attitude toward him and may enable you to help him. (I am assuming that saints maintain this goal in their differences.) Also, as error involves persons, we need to be aware that there is a brother on the other end of our lance.

Hearts are WON, not TAKEN, by battle tactics. A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. Real conviction cannot be forced on anyone, and carnal efforts to do so defeat legitimate purposes (2 Corinthians 10).

Listen—at least as much as you speak. If your opponent takes unfair advantage of the time, give him a gentle reminder or two—then politely but firmly excuse yourself. A shouting contest wins no souls for Christ

Be honest! If you cannot answer a question, say so—and promise to study, then answer later. In such cases, let the opponent explain his answer, and proofs; then check these as you study the matter for yourself.

As much as possible, turn “differences” into mutual studies—two men, working together to determine truth. I am aware that ideal circumstances cannot always exist, but we can try.

And remember, he who best serves the Lord is the “winner”—always!

Brother Turner’s article reminds me of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Habit 5 is “Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood.” He calls this the habit of “emphatic communication.” Empathy not only hears, but feels. Empathy connects. Empathy is kind. Empathy responds instead of reacts. Empathy listens without interrupting.

The communication advice from both Turner and Covey is Biblically based. Here’s a link to 30 Scriptures that will improve your communication skills, not only when we differ with others, but in all of our relationships. These verses also remind us that “connection is the key to effective communication.”

BTW, remember posting on social media is a form of communication. Applying these principles in our posting will also aid in eliminating anger, hurt feelings, and useless wrangling.

Finally this thought from Mark Twain. “A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives that he habitually uses in conversation.”

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

1 Comment

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One response to “How To Differ Constructively

  1. Pingback: Weekly Recap: May 1-5 | ThePreachersWord

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