Disagreeing With Articulate Skill
I am going to take a stab in the dark here and guess that you have noticed many times individuals in our society tend to not disagree peacefully. Personally, I can have a deep amount of respect for someone who has the ability to articulate what they believe civilly and effectively even if I disagree with their end position. I enjoy conversing with an individual who is willing to dive into our disagreements as friends, rather than dive at each other as enemies! When I discuss an area of differing opinions with a friendxs, we discuss the subject and bring up varying points thereby sharpening each other as we go along in the conversation. However, if someone wants to come at me as an enemy, then they will typically forgo discourse and begin name calling very quickly.
I have yet to be persuaded to change my mind by someone who calls me names. Telling me I am a racist because I deny the notion of systemic racism is not going to change my mind on systemic racism. Calling me selfish because I do not think wearing a mask helps prevent viruses is not going to make me adapt my position. That being said, I have changed my mind on plenty of occasions when someone walked through the reason for their position and was able to answer my questions with biblical truth. I used to not believe Christians should keep the Sabbath, now I believe this is a sacred responsibility. Previously, I thought the 1,000 years in the book of Revelation was literal, now I do not. My point is not that I constantly change my mind, frankly I do not change views a ton because my worldview is solidified in the never-changing Scripture. However, when someone comes along and helps me see my personal error through their communication of the truth, then I am willing to grow in that wisdom and understanding they have shared. This discussion is going to take someone who has the ability to disagree in an articulate way and who also has the skill to present the truth. Children engage in name-calling, adults must not be so immature, but instead seek to provide solid reasons for particular positions they hold. I appreciate someone who can present truth in a winsome way and guide me through their wisdom.
Disagreeing With Respect
“Mankind is the representative of God on earth; to see a man or a woman is to see the only living creature made in the image of God.” -Owen Strachan 1
Anytime you converse with another member of humanity, you are talking with a man or woman made in the image of God and created for His glory. Certainly, we recognize not all will find salvation in Christ, but because of the fact that humans are made in God’s image each person is worthy of dignity and respect. When you or I disagree with someone, do we rail against them with all the anger and wrath we can muster, or do we talk it out and share the truth with gentleness and respect (see 1 Peter 3:15)? I show another person respect by listening to their viewpoint and not just automatically jumping on them with all the force of a semi-truck running over a bicycle. I respect them by patiently listening, asking questions, and then speaking the truth to them. I comprehend their position, and their questions, so I know the best way to give them answers.
We also show respect to another by not assuming they are to dumb to know anything. Many individuals in our society assume that those who disagree with them are just less intelligent than other folks. Instead, we must present the truth to others in a sincere way. Don’t assume that just because someone disagrees with you that they are automatically a selfish, racist, humanity hating bigot. No, converse with them as a fellow human being made in the image of God and worthy of respect. Talk to them with the same attitude that you want those who disagree with you to hold. Be firm in your stance upon what is true, but also be willing to learn and listen. Even if the other person is truly wrong, you will not only have a better conversation with them, but you will strengthen your own mind by hearing their objections to your ideas.
One key area when disagreeing with others is to allow it to build your friendship. For example, I have Christian brothers who do not always agree with me on every topic. However, I find that when we discuss our disagreements, we are stronger in our friendships than ever before. The simple act of diving into Scripture together and pushing on each others points in a friendly way brought us closer together. We may end up disagreeing on certain secondary and third-order issues, but we are still brothers in Christ and close to one another.
Similarly, when you disagree with someone, often times, you will find it will strengthen the relationship. This growth in friendship may not always happen, sometimes a disagreement leads to separation and that is good in certain instances. For example, Paul discusses “having nothing more to do” with someone who stirs up division in the church and promotes heresy after they have been warned twice (see Titus 3:10). However, separation is not the goal when we enter into a conversation with someone with whom we disagree. We want to see the erring party come to the truth. Therefore, quite often we should find that disagreements actually strengthen our relationships with others.
By keeping with all of these ideas, you can navigate disagreements by standing for the truth with gentleness and respect in faithfulness to Christ. What other areas should Christians consider when dealing with disagreements? Let me know in the comments below!
1 Owen Strachan, Reenchanting Humanity, p. 29