We Don’t Agree, But I Love You

Published on December 28, 2010 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

7

I recently heard two people say this: “I don’t get along with _____ because I don’t agree with him.”  You might find this to be entirely natural, and I can say there is a part of me that understands this well because I’ve thought it myself.  But just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good.

We might think that the basis for a friendship or a relationship of some kind should rest upon common experiences or common beliefs.  And to some degree, this is true.  We do tend to gather with others who are like-minded, which is how we get clusters of people in a religion, or a club, or a denomination,

There is something deep within us that brings us close to one another, and this same something gives rise to our greatest conflicts.  This something is our system of beliefs—beliefs about life, and God, and morality.  If none of us believed anything, then we’d probably get along more easily.  It’s the differences that separate us.

This brings us to the question I’d like for us to consider:  How, and when, should we get along?

At times, I’ve wondered why God didn’t make belief, and subsequently the getting along, easier on us.  The simplest model to govern a belief is one with a strong, central authority.  When a belief system can be controlled from the top, then internal alignment will naturally ensue.  This is the model for any number of cults today.

However, the Bible doesn’t set up the church in a command-and-control kind of structure, where leaders of the church act as the arbiters for belief.  Instead, the Scriptures make priests out of all believers, give leaders to shepherd and train and guide those believers, and set Jesus as king over all of us.  In structural terms, the church becomes flat.

The trouble with this, if you want to call it trouble at all, is that flatness leads to diversity.  If I get to read the Bible and tell you what it means, then we’re likely going to agree with one another because you don’t know any better.  But if you and I can both read the same Bible, and we can come up with different perspectives, then we’re going to be at odds on some things.

I don’t mean to make this an ecumenical or interfaith call. Protestants disagree with Catholics on the nature of justification.  Christians disagree with Muslims on the nature of Jesus.  Monotheists disagree with polytheists on the nature of God.  And theists disagree with atheists on the existence of God.

These differences are important, because they mean something vital.  If there is a God, and our sin separates us from Him, and this life is but a vapor, and there’s a way, but only one way, to be made right with Him, and He divides the world into those whom He is for and those whom He is against, then it’s vital that we know specifics about this God.  And it’s vital that we agree on these things.

But beyond these vital differences, the solid blacks and whites begin to gray to varying degrees.  There are other beliefs to die for, but they are smaller in number than we might believe.  There are others to debate over, but again, they are probably smaller in number than we might think.  And there are still others to forebear, which are probably far greater in number than we would like to admit.

God knows this.  He saw fit in His infinite wisdom to make it so.  By giving us a book and sending us His Spirit and commissioning His people to carry out His commandments, He is running the risk that we’re going to botch some things and fight a bit more than we should.  Which brings us back to our question:  How, and when, should we get along?

Paul gives us some help here:  “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Much can be said, but for the sake of this discussion, we can just say that the call to unity is predicated on the calling of God.  God calls us to be His own, and as His people, He commands us to eagerly maintain the unity of the Spirit.  It’s interesting to see the how that follows the what of this command.

Be humble.

Be gentle.

Be patient.

Bear one another in love.

By these actions, we are to maintain unity with one another.  If we disagree with an enemy, Jesus tells us to love them and pray for them.  If we disagree with a brother or sister in Christ, the Spirit tells us to maintain unity with them in the bond of peace.

So when we’re tempted to say we don’t get along with someone because we disagree, it’s probably more accurate to say:  I don’t get along with him because I’m prideful; or I don’t get along with her because I’m not willing to love her.

Instead, let us be the kind of people who are humble, gentle, patient, and willing to bear with one another in love.

Question:  Why is it hard to maintain peace with someone with whom we disagree?

  • Debbie

    I love the way you see things and how you challenge us to think…a kind of thinking that really can lead to transformation. I'm thinking especially about your rephrasing of "I don't get along with him because we don't agree". Hmmm, when I'm tempted to think other things too, like "He makes me sooo mad because he…" (I wonder who "he" might be :0) ) maybe I need to think, "He makes me sooo mad because I want MY way." Or, "He makes me so mad because I'm demanding." Or…well, you get the picture. Maybe I'm the one who needs to change. At least in my thinking — which will always lead to change in behavior, feeling, atmosphere. Even if the "other guy" is wrong, how I think and respond to that will make a huge difference in life for everyone while "the other guy" gets his act together ;0) . It also just might make God smile and that's something wonderful! Thanks again for something well worth reading and thinking about. Have a wonderful year, filled with God's best.

    • http://cravesomethingmore.org Chris_Tomlinson

      Debbie, thanks for the kind words. Your thoughts are passionate, funny, and uplifting, as usual!

  • Elizabeth

    Wow. "Why is it hard to maintain peace with someone with whom we disagree?" That's a tough question, Chris! I think sometimes it's because our feelings are hurt (it's a personal issue). Sometimes we think the other person's opinion is not simply different from ours, but bad, or evil (or they think that of our opinion). Sometimes, I think it comes down to pride and insecurity. I look forward to the day when we all live in 100% truth, when all is revealed, when we are all in the presence of God.

  • http://5minutesplease.wordpress.com/ Krista

    And what do you do when the other person will not yield? Not even listen to your side of the story? Does not want to work with you to repair the relationship? Do you simply drop the relationship and pray for "your enemy?"
    Everyone, please advise/

    From Matthew:
    15 “If your brother or sister[b] sins,[c] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[d] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

    • http://cravesomethingmore.org Chris_Tomlinson

      Krista, I suppose it depends on the nature of the relationship. The passage you reference in Matthew 15 would seem to apply to any Christian relationship–within marriage, family, or friendship spheres. Relationships outside of Christ would demand a different approach. If I was in a situation with a relationship in Christ, and there was some source of tension or some manner of dispute, I'd probably examine my own heart first to see if I was walking according to the Spirit, as shown by His fruit, or if I was seeking something else. I would cover the situation in prayer, asking not only for God's peace but also for His wisdom. And I would approach my brother or sister in Christ, out of humility, fueled by love, and eager to maintain unity. If sin persists, Scripture directs other remedies we should follow. Your thoughts?

      • http://5minutesplease.wordpress.com/ Krista

        Thank you for your response, Chris. I appreciate your insight. I do not think it coincidence that you wrote this post in the midst of our situation. I believe the God was using you as tool.
        I agree with what you say. In fact, that is the path that we have taken. My heart has ached, having approached with humility, questioning my own thoughts, my own Christian beliefs, my own morals, and my own family members. We have been patient. We have prayed. All of this over and over.

        If the Christian test of scripture, prayer and careful consultation with others (my husband, pastor) repeatedly confirms my thoughts and actions (versus their actions), what does that mean for me? What do I do? If I am pre-occupied (even troubled) by the situation, the lack of coming to a mutual understanding, does that mean that I still have love for this friend? Yet, I feel the best path is to cut ties: That ending the relationship is an act of reconciliation. Am I missing something? (am I confusing?)

        Further thoughts, Chris? Other readers?
        My recent post Winter IS a Challenge

        • http://cravesomethingmore.org Chris_Tomlinson

          Krista, to answer your final questions first: you're probably not missing something, and you're not confusing =). This is a tough situation with no easy answers. From what we see in God's word, I think you would be justified in cutting ties–primarily for the sake of your friend, that he/she might be won back through repentance.

          But another thought came to mind as I considered your questions. The way you posed the questions focuses on what YOU should do, which I think is a different, but equally wise, question to ask. What should your role be in this in terms of dealing with your own heart? God will continue to work on you as you work with Him, but I was struck by the degree to which God loves us against our own sinful ways. His grace and mercy overcome our sin in unfathomable ways.

          Loving your friend may mean meeting resistance with grace, defensiveness with encouragement, and stubbornness with love. It may mean cutting ties but couching the separation in your heart with God's grace and love. Either way, your response is the same, and God will handle the rest.

          His grace and mercy to you as you seek Him…