Monday, July 7, 2014

When Christians Disagree

“...For while there is jealously and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not being merely human?” (1 Corinthians 3:3-4, ESV).

We were blindsided but should have been aware. Last week, our local community of Christian doctors confronted a public moral and ethical issue that we could not ignore. It required a public response. Our executive council generally agreed about God’s best plan for us as a ministry, but a few strongly disagreed, citing God’s Word and their faith as being important in their disagreement. One doctor, who loves the Lord, was so concerned about our response that he resigned from the local council and withdrew his support for our ministry.

How do we as Christians disagree over important matters?
People wiser than I have suggested these five words:
  1. Facts: Both sides of any disagreement should gather all the information available before drawing conclusions. Too often, Christians argue over partial information. The truth becomes clear only when available knowledge is fully gathered. Facts include:
    1. Data around the issue.
    2. The facts within God’s Word.
    3. Facts from the other side: listening with our mouths shut, seeking to learn. We may hear something that changes us and brings us closer to God’s truth.
  2. Prayer: We are people of revelation. Even when the facts are known, the truth of the matter may not be clear until God speaks into the issue. We need to be asking and listening.
  3. Community: God speaks best and wisdom arises most clearly within community. We should be praying and seeking counsel within a community of believers. Sometimes, when folks on either side of an issue cannot agree, we should trust the community as a whole to decide the issue and accept God’s revealed truth through them. When Thomas could not believe that Christ had risen, he might have left those who disagreed with him. Instead, he remained with the people he loved and met the risen Christ.
  4. Forgiveness: In heated arguments over important matters, even Christians can hurt each other. If we are hurt, we should forgive. If we hurt others, we should ask forgiveness.
  5. Humility: I may be very confident about an important issue, but when I am disagreeing with other Christians who truly love the Lord, I need to understand that I might be missing something.
    My favorite email message during the flurry of communications around this local controversy was, “Ron, I disagree with you theologically on this; but I love you, brother; and I realize that I may be wrong.”

    (By the way, this sounds like pretty good advice for marriage as well.)
Dear God,
Grant us wisdom; when we disagree, let us together seek your truth.

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