Think about this for a moment.
What do you want people to say about you when you’re gone? What words would you want them to use to describe you?
How about words like:
Yep, I think most of us would like to be remembered by these kinds of words, right?
Now, how about these words:
Yeah, no thank you. I don’t think anyone of us wants to be described by these words. And yet, unfortunately, for 2 women in the Bible, they are forever known for being disagreeable. For fighting with each other and refusing to cooperate.
Out of all the things they could have been remembered for. This is what people are still reading about today.
Even after thousands of years have passed.
We don’t know what happened between them. We don’t even know if they ever worked things out. All we know is that at one point they had a disagreement so severe that even the Apostle Paul decided to get involved.
“Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News.”-Philippians 4:2-3 NLT
We can see from this passage that these two women helped Paul. They were active in the church. They were both Christians. They were both involved in ministry.
But something happened between them.
There was a conflict. And the disagreement was so bad that the Apostle Paul decided to call them out in a letter. A letter he had written with the intention of having it read out loud in front of the entire congregation.
Talk about being called out in front of everyone you know!
How Should Christians Handle Disagreements?
So, what are we to do when we disagree with someone else in the church? And I’m not talking about a minor disagreement here either.
But something a little bigger. Something we are a little more passionate about. Something that means a lot to us.
Whether it’s a disagreement about doctrine, politics, or another aspect of our belief system, these things can seem important enough to either connect or divide us.
And yet if we allow these things to divide us they can cause disunity in the church. Which is never a good thing.
So, how do we handle these situations?
No matter what the disagreement is, when Christians disagree we can keep in mind 6 very important things. Things that will help us not only resolve the conflicts between us but can even keep them from becoming a problem in the first place.
1) When Christians Disagree: Don’t moralize everything.
The Bible doesn’t talk about every issue there is. And some topics are open to interpretation.
This is why we need to rely on the Holy Spirit. He is the One who can help us know what the best direction is for us. But He may have another path for someone else.
And that is okay.
While the Bible does speak in black and white terms of some things. Others are gray areas. And when it comes to issues in the gray, we need to offer grace.
It’s okay if people think differently than you do.
You can still be polite and kind. And you can still work together for the good of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Because that is what is most important.
2) When Christians Disagree: Keep an open mind.
Keeping an open mind can help us to try to understand why the other person feels the way they do. It helps us try to see things from their point of view.
You may think you’re right. But I bet they do, too.
Take a deep breath. And really try to listen to them. Consider the reality that you could be wrong or you may not fully understand why they feel the way they do.
And then if it comes down to it, simply thank them for sharing their perspective and agree to disagree.
Because that is totally okay with most of our disagreements.
3) When Christians Disagree: Choose your words carefully.
While it’s okay to share your opinions, you need to choose your words carefully.
Ranting on social media, name-calling, or insulting other believers are not good strategies for maintaining unity. You may think you are standing up for the truth . . . but in reality, you are just being a bully.
You will never convince anyone of the truth you are so passionate about if you choose to shout. (Out loud. Or on a keyboard.) And you will lose a lot of respect from the people around you. As well as giving Christianity a bad rep.
Sometimes, it’s best to just listen and not say much of anything.
By listening you may realize they have no interest in changing. And by speaking you will just be wasting your words.
So, listen. Be respectful. And pray for them.
But then leave it at that.
Better they continue to believe a lie (because you aren’t going to be able to convince them anyway). Then for people around you to shake their heads, thinking, “I don’t want to have anything to do with that if that is what following Jesus looks like.”
Sometimes you just have to move out of the way and let the Holy Spirit do His thing.
Because He is the only One who can soften hearts, open minds, and change lives.
So, respectfully agree to disagree with them. And pray for them. Because when we pray for people . . . we can’t help but start to care about them. Even when we disagree with them.
And that is always a good thing.
4) When Christians Disagree: Don’t focus on your differences. Focus on what you have in common.
The truth is God created us. With all of our differences and quirks. So, He knows we won’t always agree on everything. And He never said we have to agree on everything.
He just said we should live in unity. (John 17:20-23) And unity does not mean uniformity. Or conformity.
Even in unity, there can be great diversity.
The key to living in unity is to stop focusing on our differences and instead remember what we have in common.
We have ALL been made in the image of God. And because of His Holy Spirit living within us, we can stand in unity with God and each other as we live for ONE common purpose:
To love God and tell others about Him as we look forward to our future home together in Heaven.
Unity begins with how we view ourselves within the body and how we view others.
When we gave our life to Christ, we became unified with Him. But we also became a part of a much larger body. A body with Christ as the head – directing and guiding us. (Yes, Jesus is the brain!)
This body has many different moving parts. But they all need to work together.
After all, you can’t row a boat with only one arm. Everyone needs to do their part (1 Cor. 12:12-27).
But when this body lives in unity and all the different parts move and work together . . . this body can do amazing things.
5) When Christians Disagree: Focus on the Big “C” Church . . . not just the Little “c” church.
When we join a church, we tend to just go to that one church. We think it’s the best church in the world because it’s our church. We tell everyone about our church. And invite other people to our church.
And while it is great to belong to a local church, we must remember that any church we belong to is a little “c” church.
And that little “c” church is part of a much bigger “C” Church – the global wide movement for Christ.
So, it shouldn’t bother us to visit another Bible-believing church. Or hang out with someone from another Bible-believing church. Or to go to another Bible-believing church for a Bible study or retreat.
Because when we visit another Bible-believing church, we aren’t walking into enemy territory . . . we’re walking into another home that belongs to a member of our bigger Church family.
Think of it like visiting an aunt’s, grandmother’s, or cousin’s home. It may not be your home, but it is still a place where you belong.
Because we are ALL a part of this bigger family that has been united by the blood of Jesus.
6) When Christians Disagree: Keep in mind there are different categories of beliefs.
Another thing that can cause disunity among us is the fact that in the global-wide Church we have different beliefs about some things. But the important thing to remember here is that there are three different categories for our beliefs.
There are primary, secondary, and tertiary beliefs.
Primary beliefs are issues we are willing to die for. They are central and essential to the Christian faith.
Primary beliefs are issues like:
- God created the world, and it was good. (Genesis 1-4)
- We have all sinned and deserve God’s judgment. (Romans 3:23)
- Jesus was the Son of God. Without ceasing to be God, Jesus took on flesh and dwelt among us, born to a virgin named Mary. (John 1:14, Matthew 1:18)
- Jesus lived a sinless life and died on a cross, paying for the sins of everyone. And then He rose from the grave so that everyone who put their faith in Him would also rise with Him to eternal life. (2 Cor. 5:21)
- It is only through Jesus we can be saved. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6)
- The Trinity – God is Three in One – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)
Secondary beliefs aren’t essential to the gospel, so they aren’t issues we should be willing to die for. But they do affect how we live. These beliefs are what gave rise to the different denominations.
Secondary beliefs are issues like:
- The roles of women in the church.
- Different views on baptism or communion.
Tertiary beliefs are merely a matter of conscience. Scripture doesn’t speak clearly on these issues, so we can choose what we believe. And the truth is what one person is convicted of may not be what another person is convicted of.
This is why we need to rely on the Holy Spirit for issues that are not black and white. He knows us inside and out, so only the Holy Spirit can guide us on what is best for us when it comes to these gray areas.
Tertiary beliefs are issues like:
- Our view of end times. (Pre, mid, or Post Tribulation)
- How we choose to dress.
- What we eat or drink.
- The music we listen to.
- Owning firearms.
What Causes Disagreements Among Christians?
One of the biggest threats to Christian unity is when we get hyper-focused on menial issues like the ones listed above.
Yes, there are black-and-white issues – primary beliefs that we should stand firm on. But if the Bible doesn’t spell it out in black and white – then this is clearly an area that is gray . . . and when it comes to issues that are in the gray, we are called to offer grace.
We don’t always need to figure out who is right.
In fact, more often than not we need to lay down our right to be right and instead take up the cross of Christ. (Phil. 2:5-8) Because when we take up the cause to be right and drop the cross, the image the world sees of Jesus is blurred.
Why Christians Need to Resolve Their Disagreements
As the old hymn says, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
This hymn was written based on John 17:20-23 where Jesus calls us to live in unity with each other. The whole point of this hymn was that the world will know we are Christians by our love . . . for one another!
Because when they see how much we love and care for each other, even with all our differences, it makes them want to know more about us.
And our Jesus.
Whether we like it or not, the way we treat each other and work together changes the way people see God.
This is why we need to resolve the disagreements between us. So, we can learn to live in loving unity and together shine the light of Jesus into this dark and broken world.
That is what is more important than anything . . . even the things about which we disagree.
How can we resolve disagreements with other Christians?
When Christians disagree we can strive to resolve our disagreements by remembering 3 things:
- Stand firm on the essentials.
- Give grace for the non-essentials.
- And in everything, put on love.
This is how we can learn to love each other even when we’re so different from each other. This is how we can learn to agree to disagree on the minor things so we can continue to live in unity.
This is how we can learn to support and encourage each other . . . even if we don’t always understand or agree with each other.
This is how we work to resolve conflicts, so they don’t lead to disunity in the church. This is how we can build friendships, loving unity, and a welcoming community in the church.
And most importantly, THIS is how we impact the world for Jesus.
If you found this challenging but inspiring then please share it so it can help others!
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