How Can I Walk With Someone I Disagree With?
Dealing with disagreements with the people in the church
When you open social media right now, you’ll be debilitated by the chaotic rambles of people taking sides in different areas of life. From political biases to the next NBA champion to the topic of “Is kissing before marriage a sin?”
Each of us grew up with different backgrounds, and we value different things because of that. Hence, it is normal to have disagreements even with people in the church. But because we find it hard to settle our differences, disunity arises, disagreement turns into discrimination of beliefs, people take sides, and we resort to tribalism.
We often see this when disagreement turns into quarrels that lead to accusations and discrimination. Some debates end up with resolutions, but sadly, most of what we find on and off of social media are broken friendships and relationships because of unresolved debates and arguments.
With all this, we can’t help but wonder, how can we walk with someone we disagree with?
- Embrace disagreements.
The church, throughout history, had various disagreements. Take, for example, the council at Jerusalem.
While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them, arguing vehemently. Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question. (Acts 15:1–2, NLT)
Disagreement doesn’t automatically mean disunity. We can have a healthy disagreement, even to the point of arguing vehemently, and still, be in unity with one another.
We have to accept the fact that God designed each of us in unique ways. We have different backgrounds and experiences. Thus, we have different opinions and perspectives on things. And yet, the truth remains that no matter how different we are, we can still walk in unity.
Disagreements can be daunting, but we can have unity in diversity when we have something more significant that unites us.
2. Seek clarity and maturity
Disagreements are opportunities for conversation and learning.
The beauty of disagreement is learning other views that you rarely see. It is by opening our eyes to the possibility that perhaps we’re wrong or that we haven’t explored all possibilities and explanations while lovingly and intentionally explaining our views to others.
Open disagreement rallies maturity.
So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue . . . Everyone listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. When they had finished, James stood and said, “Brothers, listen to me. Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself. And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted . . .” (Acts 15:6, 12–15, NLT)
Disagreements can also be a gateway for clarity.
As Paul and Barnabas argued with the men from Judea, both parties agreed and had clarity on the issue by seeking help from others. As they explained their side, the apostles listened quietly. So, to agree on different opinions and points of view, both have to listen and mutually understand each perspective attentively. The last thing you want to do is defend your personal beliefs and opinions but lose your friends or a family member.
Maturity comes when you decide to solve the issue rather than the desire to win the argument.
3. Accept differences with love and forgiveness
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. (Ephesians 4:15–16, NLT)
Paul was passionate about building unity in the church. As he described the church as Christ’s body, he reminded us that each body part has a different function and role. The same goes for our different beliefs and views.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31–32, NLT)
In a disagreement or a debate, you may end up hurt. Take time to reflect on why you are hurting, and, if you can, try to release forgiveness. As Paul says, get rid of unnecessary bitterness and forgive one another, just as God has forgiven you. And that’s the truth that we all can agree on — the truth of the gospel, our reconciliation with God and with one another.
Reconciliation with people is an essential part of living out the truth of the gospel and can only be sustained in light of God’s grace and love. Although reconciliation may not always happen, it is still possible to love others in light of the gospel from afar. We cannot resolve differences of opinion and viewpoints without intentionally listening to one another with the perspective of the gospel.
Disagreement can signify maturity, but it is impossible to grow out of that without love. We can only walk with those we disagree with when we first choose and agree to love them, just as God loves us.
The common ground that we can all stand upon is the gospel.
The gospel is not just good news of salvation and reconciliation. The gospel should create in us a kingdom culture. This culture helps us live our lives under one authority, and that authority is King Jesus. The gospel unites us with God, and gives us the power to follow and obey Him in loving others.