Disagreements arise between even the closest of friends. Simply because two people are Christians and read the same Bible does not mean they will agree on everything. If anything, it means they will have that much more to disagree on. This is why denominations exist within Christianity.
There is nothing wrong with differences of opinion when it comes to doctrine, politics, or decisions one should make in his or her personal life. The question is how should Christians handle situations when these disagreements arise. How can we maintain mutual love and respect for one another and glorify God even when we disagree on matters we think are important?
I remember the one time I disagreed with another Christian on a matter of scriptural interpretation. For a long time, I thought the view I held on the matter was the only view, so I was surprised when I found out there were other perspectives with arguments as compelling as mine. Of course, my first reaction was to dismiss the other point of view entirely, but as we continued our discussion, I began to see the validity of the argument. While I still do not agree entirely with my friend, I have adjusted my view because of what I learned. It was really an instance of “iron sharpening iron.” Because I was willing to listen to and dialogue respectfully with someone I disagreed with, I grew in my knowledge of the Scriptures.
Unfortunately, this does not always work out for everyone. We all tend to form emotional ties to the things we believe, no matter how important or unimportant those things actually are. We all have our favorite beliefs and opinions, and we can get upset when they are called into question. Perhaps this means we are not entirely confident in our side of the argument and feel threatened by another perspective. Regardless, when we encounter differences of opinion, even with someone who does not believe the God of the Bible, we must act in the grace and kindness of God.
Make peace a priority
“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).
We cannot let disagreements, even major ones, cause us to lose respect for another person. I once watched a respected Christian theologian and a Muslim professor sit down and dialogue—not debate—about the differences between their religions and the cultural concerns both conservative Christians and conservative Muslims have in common. If that subject is not a controversial one on both sides, I do not know what is. However, the one thing that defined their discussion was friendliness and peacefulness. They held a mutual respect for one another that could only be described as refreshing in our nation’s current fearful climate.
If a Christian and a Muslim can discuss their differences together in a respectful and gracious way, what does that say about us when a fellow Christian causes us to be upset?
“Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1).
The most difficult challenge we face in our day-to-day lives is the challenge to do away with pride, especially when it comes to disagreements. We do not like being taught. When encountering disagreement, many might say, as I did, that their unwillingness to listen to the other point of view is because they “stand on the truth of the Bible.” What we have to understand is that if the Bible is true it can withstand any opposing opinion. We do not have to protect it by refusing to listen to another perspective. If we do, we are showing that we really are not confident that our argument can stand on its own two feet.
We have to admit that we might be able to learn something from someone else, at least to the extent of allowing him or her to speak. Christian dialogue is never one-sided.
The call to Christian growth requires us to make use of the tools that God has given us, and that includes the people who we see every day. No matter their background or worldview, they were put in our path for a reason and they have something to offer. When our minds have been thoroughly informed by the Word of God and we engage the many varied ideas, beliefs, and opinions in our surroundings with grace and humility, we will find ourselves shaped and molded further into the image of Christ, while at the same time those around us will likewise respond to the image of Christ in us.