To Disagree Is Human: It Can Also Be Biblical and Christian

Churches are often judged as successful when they appear to be free of conflict. While bitter conflict can certainly divide and even destroy churches, I’m not so sure that a conflict-free church should be our goal. To disagree is human. And debating matters that are important to us is one of the ways we learn, change and grow together. I worry sometimes that South Church could become a too-comfortable, conflict-free, growth-free zone. Rather than striving to be free of conflict, maybe we should strive to disagree in ways that encourage growth.

There are various ways to disagree:

Don’t talk about our differences. This approach is very common in churches. In fact, some believe that to openly disagree is “unchristian.” Yet we know that the early church was defined by conflict between Peter and Paul; and working out their different perspectives led to the survival and growth of the church.

Agree to disagree. How often have we heard this? Acknowledge differences; then carry on without agreement. This sounds good in theory, but sometimes doesn’t work in practice. For example, a church considers becoming Open and Affirming but after realizing that members hold strong opposing opinions decides to “agree to disagree” and not continue the conversation. This approach takes a side by default, supporting the status quo.

One variation of “agree to disagree” is to honor different perspectives. But not all beliefs are equally honorable. If a belief diminishes or degrades the value of a human being then it should be challenged.

Meet in the Middle. Another approach that sounds good on the surface but falls apart upon closer scrutiny is to meet half way. While this kind of compromise can sometimes lead to peace, it may not be helpful when one approach really is damaging. Half way between right and wrong is half-wrong, which is still wrong.

Engage the Conversation. Debating passionately is not unbiblical or unchristian. And there are ways to have these conversations that respect all people in the process.

First, begin with prayer, specifically a prayer of confession. If we all begin a potentially divisive conversation by confessing that we all fall short of fully comprehending God’s truth and stand in need of God’s help, we can cultivate an openness to listen and change.

Next, agree to address our perspectives in the context of our faith with the Bible as our guide, not in a narrow way that attempts to use particular verses to “prove” a point but by drawing from the values and stories of our faith for inspiration.

Seek to empathize with each other. While we may disagree with some people’s opinions, when we seek to understand how someone came to their belief and affirm their feelings and experience we create an opportunity for agreement and reconciliation.

Finally, trust the process and each other. To argue without hurting people or damaging the church requires trusting that our loving relationships will remain intact through tough discussions.

In the months ahead I hope to create opportunities to talk about some of the tough issues that divide our world and trust that we will all grow in faith through the process.
In Christ, Pastor George

Published in: on May 26, 2015 at 5:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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