There is no shortage of differing opinions around us. Whether it be politics, refugees, LGBTQ rights, racial tensions - there is plenty to discuss and plenty of varying opinions. But how do we face disagreements or differing opinions from a biblically-based, gospel-centered perspective as followers of Jesus?
First of all, this question is extremely nuanced and can be answered based on a number of different factors. The Bible employs us to stand firm in the essentials of our faith and to seek unity around the non-negotiables. However, most issues are not black and white as many may think. They require deep reflection, study, discussion, and humility in order to navigate.
Let me give you some thoughts on how we as gospel-centered followers of Jesus can better navigate how we choose to disagree.
5 unfortunate trends I’ve observed:
1. We make very bold statements with very limited information. Everyone is an expert on everything. We have a conversation, read a blog, watch a video clip, hear a story and automatically translate that into an opinion/fact with very little reflection or discussion.
2. We present positions in a way where people must choose sides. There is no middle ground. There are no compromises or spaces for discussion. You are either with me or against me. You are either 100% in favor of my viewpoint or you are the opposition. It’s a black and white matter; even though very few positions truly are.
3. We use extreme rhetoric in order to "win." In order to “win” the debate, controversy or discussion we’re willing to use extreme rhetoric that further divides and destroys any sort of bridge or environment where learning or compromise can occur. “Oh, so you still hold to a traditional view of marriage between a man and a women. I didn’t realize you were anti-LGBTQ - that you were the problem - that you wanted to limit the freedoms of Americans and force people back into the closet.”
4. We make every issue THE defining issue. There are issues that deserved to be fought for. There are issues in which you need to take a stand. But most of the time those issues are the exception, not the rule. We can’t choose to fight on every hill. I often quote this phrase which has been attributed to St. Augstine, “In the essentials we will have unity. In the non-essentials we will have liberty. In all things we will love.” We fight for the essentials. We show grace in the non-essentials (or the morally neutral). We can do all of this in the love of Christ; even disagree.
5. We show no humility in our discussions with others. Where there is no humility, no respect for a differing opinion, and no willingness to learn, we will simply see people as standing in our way rather than opportunities to grow. We’re so concerned with being right or winning the argument or changing someone else, we forget about loving others.
5 general observations from the New Testament:
1. Jesus didn’t fly any flag higher than the Kingdom of God. Jesus didn’t address every issue the culture was facing or even the political crisis the Jews were facing at the hands of the Romans. It wasn’t that these issues didn’t matter, it’s that he didn’t want any issue to become more important the Kingdom of God that was being ushered in. The religious leaders were constantly trying to draw Jesus into controversial matters that would have taken the attention off what was most important.
2. Paul insists for unity among diversity. I think every church should be reminded of Paul’s exhortation in Romans 14-15 (The weak and the strong). Two very different churches (Jewish & Gentile Christians) were merging together and other than their faith in Jesus they had very little in common. Paul doesn’t ask them to change but instead asks that their faith in Christ and love for their brothers/sisters supercede all other issues. Don’t put a stumbling block in the path of your brother by trying to force them to believe what you believe in a non-essential matter of faith. That's not acting in love.
3. We should be known by our love and humility. If you want to truly reflect the life of Jesus and be countercultural than show humility (Phil. 2:1-11). In a culture where everybody first wants to be right, instead, first choose to display the love of Christ. Remember, your approach will probably speak louder than your argument or particular viewpoint.
4. It's possible to walk in both grace and truth. Too many people believe that it’s either grace or truth but Jesus was the embodiment of both. Grace doesn’t have to sacrifice truth and truth should not be given at the expense of grace. As you observe the life of Christ, you see someone who manages that paradigm in a seamless way. (Blog post)
5. Choose to remove yourself from hatred and discord. There is nothing to be won by entertaining arguments or individuals who insist on hatred and division. As followers of Jesus, it’s imperative that you learn to protect your heart and create boundaries that keep toxic people at a healthy distance, while also respecting and learning from those who are different than you.