“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” -James 1:19-20
I’ve repeated these verses in James often over the years because I need the reminder. I don’t want to be known as a grouch who is always loudly shouting my opinions and never listening. That isn’t the way of Jesus and it shouldn’t be true of me either. So how does one have a discussion or debate without losing your cool? How can a Christian promote harmony and not discord?
Romans 12:1-15:6 is an excellent passage on practical living in unity. It does not mean you are unable to share your thoughts, convictions or opinions. After all, God made us with the ability to reason. What it does mean is we keep the other person (or people) in mind during a disagreement. Am I honoring them by listening? Do I show love and humility with my words and body language?
The way we deal with confrontation as believers matters because of Who we represent to a watching world. It’s easy to blast someone on social media without thinking much of it. This is especially true if we don’t know the other person very well or at all. Don’t let the lack of physical interaction become a blinder to the fact that words can be destructive and destroy any testimony we have. The virtual world is not a barrier, as we are still accountable for our words and actions. It would serve us well to remember this.
I cringe just thinking about confrontation. It’s not something I go looking for. Yet as a lover of truth, defender to justice, guardian of mercy, sometimes we need to speak. How we go about it is what will honor the name of Christ or misrepresent His matchless grace. All too often Christians default to silence, not wanting to offend Aunt Martha from Idaho or the neighbor down the street. This isn’t always the best solution either.
Disagreeing with someone can be done with grace and peace as we strive for unity- especially among the faith family. To be clear, we do defend the core doctrines of Christianity at all times. This is not to be disputed. The virgin birth, Deity of Christ, the Trinity, resurrection, and salvation by grace through faith, are foundational for a Christian. Explicit commands in Scripture are also non-negotiable. But if there are lesser disagreements then as Paul writes in Romans, “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (12:18). Why would we do this?
- All men and women are created in the image of God and therefore should be given proper respect.
- Those in the Body of Christ are called to walk worthy, living in spiritual unity with each other (Ephesians 4:1-5; Philippians 1:27-2:4).
- You represent Jesus. As a minister of reconciliation, we reflect our Savior.
There is freedom in accepting we will not always see eye to eye on every issue among believers. Not everyone has to be like me (because THAT would be boring!). This is the beauty of having a personal relationship with Jesus. He addresses us as individuals in our sin because we’ve each been given a distinct personality with certain preferences, habits and weaknesses. It is through our unique personhood we learn to operate as one Body. Only Christ can dream up something so wonderful and improbable yet still make it possible.
It is not a crime to ask questions or form convictions. But we must also be humble to admit when we might be wrong, or change our position if necessary. At the very least we can peaceably disagree. This is how we can dignify another person we have conflict with. Don’t take offense when a brother or sister in Christ disagrees with you. We aren’t robots and may have different views on politics, how we raise our kids, or worship-style preference. This does not make you less (or superior) in your faith if someone does it differently than you.
When we learn to not take an opposing view personally, we are able to practice bearing with one another in love, responding with gentleness and respect. In this way the Church adorns the Gospel, making it attractive before a world in need of some really good news right now.
Grace upon grace,