2020 has been a hard year for all of us in one way or another. Not only have we been navigating the challenges of a worldwide pandemic and social and racial unrest, but we have also been faced with an onslaught the past few months of divisiveness everywhere we turn.
Whether it is in regards to people’s varying viewpoints on how to address racism, thoughts on the mandatory mask situation, or the fact that it is an election year, arguments, in-fighting, debate, personal attacks, dramatic comment threads, and more are the daily norm.
This would be one thing if it were only true in the world, but the sad reality is that this kind of behavior is largely true of us as believers, as well. We are called to be salt and light but have largely forgotten how to disagree well and lovingly with each other.
We don’t really know what it looks like to walk by the Spirit through disagreement or how we can have unity in the midst of the diversity of opinions. With that problem in mind, here are five lessons each of us would do well to remember.
- Mountains and Molehills
There is an old saying that goes, “that isn’t a hill to die on”, meaning that some things just are not worth digging your heels in the sand over. Some things are not worth going to bat over, losing friendships over, or endlessly debating over. We have forgotten this in our modern era where every opinion we share on social media seems just as weighty as the next.
What we have to remember, if we want to grow in the skill of disagreeing well and pursuing unity, is that some issues are topics of utmost importance and are the hills on which to die, while others simply are not. In order to know the difference and not make a mountain out of a molehill, we are going to have to search the Scriptures to come to an understanding of how God views each matter.
- Slow to Speak and Quick to Listen
Many of our interactions with one another on social media would be vastly improved if we would but heed the wisdom of James 1:19-20: “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.”
It is so easy to jump all over each other on social media when we are disagreeing over some seemingly important topic. But this is not what we are called to. We are called to be quick to listen, to seek to understand where the other person is coming from. We are called to be slow to speak, slow to spout off our own viewpoint. Because, while our old sinful nature wants us to get angry with those with whom we disagree, this will not lead to the other person (or ourselves!) growing in Christ-likeness. It is not a profitable behavior.
- The Value in Being Teachable
In a social media age where everyone is an “expert”, we have forgotten the importance of remaining teachable. Proverbs 13:18 says, “Poverty and disgrace come to those who ignore discipline, but the one who accepts correction will be honored.” Proverbs 4:5 says, “Get wisdom, get understanding; don’t forget or turn away from the words from my mouth.”
If we want to grow in the skill of disagreeing humbly and lovingly and pursuing unity, we will have to learn to be teachable (which also harkens us back to the words of James 1!).
- Remember Your Witness
Jesus said that we would be known by the world as His disciples if we “love one another” (John 13:35). Getting into political arguments on Facebook do nothing to better our witness for Christ and everything to hinder it. Disagreeing is fine and sometimes necessary, but we must do so from a heart of love and humility – not debate and arrogance.
- What Ultimately Unites Us – Forever!
As believers, when we disagree with one another, we must keep at the forefront of our minds what ultimately unites us – our mutual salvation in Christ. We are brothers and sisters in Him and will be with one another for eternity.
This is far more unifying than being members of the same political party, being on the same side of the mask issue, or being agreed on how exactly to combat racism ever could be. If we can keep this reality at the forefront of our minds, our instances of disagreement would be radically changed for the better.
May we remember the words of Paul in Romans 12:18 – “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”