How should Christians respond to one another when we find that we have deep disagreements that apparently cannot be reconciled?
One response is simply to shrug and say it doesn’t matter. You go your way and I’ll go mine. Live and let live. In my view, ignoring our differences this way is dishonest and unwise. We may be able to travel that way for a while, but eventually a point will be reached where to ignore the opinions of another would be a betrayal of our own integrity. Everyone, even a horrid namby-pamby, hoity-toity, keep-your-voice-down, don’t-upset-the-neighbours, pink’s a -nice-colour-isn’t-it liberal has their limit.
There’s another way, of course. Denigrate your opponent. Pour scorn on his arguments, but in no circumstances address them directly, because to do so concedes that there is a debate to be had. I’m right. I know, because God told me. If you disagree, you’re either a fool or an apostate or both. I must say, this is a very satisfying way to conduct an argument, because you begin with iron-clad defences and a fully-stocked ammunition cabinet. Shouting louder usually does the trick, and if you really want to press home a point, crank up the anglo-saxonisms a notch or two. You can emerge the victor every time and it feels great. I know. The trouble is, for every person that shouts “Amen!” there’s another shouting “No way!” The Body of Christ is divided and weakened. (”Can the eye say to the hand, I don’t need you?”) If we fall out of fellowship with one another, we all lose.
The better way is to face our disagreements openly, with the humility to be willing to learn from one another. Of course, in any argument I’m going to be sure I’m right. And I’ve got an opinion about everything. But I hope I’ve acquired sufficient wisdom to know that I won’t be right about everything. It’s in dialogue with one another that we learn and grow - that’s how the Church has always operated from its beginning. Talk to me. Say your piece and, I hope, let me say mine. The internet offers us more channels for communication than we’ve ever had before, more opportunities for individual Christians to “meet” across geographical and cultural boundaries. It’s up to us whether we use the opportunity to promote growth or deepen our divisions.
Originally posted Oct 20th 2005 in a quite different context.