Disagreements are bound to happen. Every family has them, so will God’s family here on earth. The issue is not will we have them, but how will we handle them?
While disagreements are ugly and uncomfortable, they are not entirely useless and sinful. Actually, I’d argue that they are necessary!
As a pastor, I have had to embrace the fact that conflict comes. That judgments will be made of me, my views, and even my character.
Public ministry = public scrutiny.
So as this happens, I face the challenge on a regular basis to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3) but also for issues that aren’t so black and white. The areas that only can be reasoned from the Scriptures, not necessarily cited in the Scriptures.
These are some of the questions (and more) that I’ve had passionate debates over and even strong disagreements with my brothers and sisters in Christ. But almost always, we walk away with more to think and pray about than solid answers or a changed mind.
So here’s some things I’ve learned that I can share with you about disagreeing well with other believers.
Settle Your Conscience In Advance
Having convictions on matters that fall in the grey areas of Scripture is not necessarily wrong. In fact, God has given us a tool to deal with these issues in the Church; the conscience
The word conscience is derived from the Latin language and means “with knowledge” con=with science=knowledge
Romans 14 is God’s guidebook for us to follow in order that we can avoid being taken advantage of or taking advantage of others. Christian liberty is driven by the Christian conscience when Scripture is just not plainly clear on a subject.
With that said, you need to choose where you stand on important issues that are “debatable” areas. Where do you stand on racial tensions in our nation? Where do you stand on tithing? Where do you stand on eating food sacrificed to idols?
Stand Firm On Your Convictions
Just because we can be wrong doesn’t always mean that we are. There is nothing wrong with standing on the conviction you have in a grey area of Christianity. The primary factor is this:
Are you willing to be corrected if shown a more reasonable position?
The key here is avoiding pride. Pride is a killer of all sorts of good things. Pride brought Satan down (Luke 10:18; Proverbs 21:4). If you are stubbornly resisting someone’s convictions solely because you don’t want to be wrong, then you are wrong.
Be Charitable In Your Tone And
All of us enjoy someone expressing their opinions as long as it doesn’t infringe on our own. That’s when things become awkward and conflict arises. Conflict is healthy. Conflict is where decisions are made in leadership circles.
Just look in Acts 15 where the issue of circumcision threatened to undo all of the work that Paul and his team had done among the Gentiles. It was heated, passionate, and went on for a long time. It also affected the entire church!
But we see something important in it all: charity. Each Apostle took his turn, addressing the leadership as “brothers” and explaining diligently their side of the aisle. Giving solid evidence with a loving heart that demonstrated love for the recipients of their decision.
Each person engaged allowed sufficient time for sufficient explanation of the other side of the arguments, allowing moments of understanding to invade the minds of those who were in opposition.
Look at the apostles in each letter of the New Testament as they addressed sin and other issues within each church, always handling it with grace and truth.
Try To Find A Win-Win.
This is most important. This is where everyone can walk away with a sense of being heard, understood, and taken seriously and not whimsically dismissed.
Referring back to Acts 15, the Jerusalem Council, we see the decision being made for both opposing Jews and desperate Gentile Christians. Read these words slowly:
“The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings. Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, it seemed good to us, having become of one mind…”
That’s the key. They addressed the concern of the audience, displayed unity in their decision for the Gentiles who were scared their salvation was in vain.
But we also see at the end of that same letter, a tip of the hat to please well-meaning Jews who had a hard time grasping new-found liberty in Christ.
“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”
Even though the Gentile Christians were free from most of these things (except fornication), the council agreed that it’s still beneficial for the Jewish Christian’s conscience to avoid food sacrificed to idols, and things strangled.
Because, Romans 14:15 commands us to not destroy our brother’s conscience for the sake of our liberty. We don’t flaunt our freedom at the expense of someone else’s conscience. We serve them and become like them in order to demonstrate love for them.