I disagree with you.
Phew! I’m glad I got that off my chest.
Oh, I suspect you disagree with me on something as well.
You know what? The world didn’t end. I just basically told you that I disagree with you and acknowledged that you disagree with me, and the world is still going. I disagree with you and you disagree with me. But that doesn’t mean I have to hate you. And hopefully, that doesn’t mean that you have to hate me.
Yet, I fear that’s what the narrative in our society is devolving to these days. There seems to be some sort of invisible dividing line that dictates that if (really, when) you and I disagree on something, even small or relatively unimportant things, we must be irreconcilably opposed to one another and have license to behave accordingly.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not placing the culpability on any particular side of any particular issue (although I do believe there is culpability … just not human culpability, or at least 100 percent human culpabiility), I am just pointing out that which seems as plain as the nose on my face. We don’t have to agree on everything in order to be friends or acquaintances. Sometimes our disagreement helps to fortify the position one or both of us have or helps at least to pressure test the rationale behind our belief.
If what I believe is so fragile that it cannot withstand you questioning or challenging it, perhaps even be strengthened by it, I have to question the veracity of my belief. If my character is so fragile that it cannot stand up to you wanting to understand why I believe what I believe or expressing your disagreement with it, then I have to question the depth of my character. If you and I cannot have a serious discussion, or even a terse conversation, and part closer as friends, then I have to question whether or not I’m living up to the commandments of God to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
As a follower of Christ, we are not called to agree with everyone. There are many areas of life that are not intended to be objectively true or false, such as the best style of BBQ (Texas-style), the most iconic college football team in the history of college football (the USC Trojans), the European city with the best weiner schnitzel (Vienna, Austria). But we are called to disagree in an agreeable manner. Romans 12:16-18 …
Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
So, what if we disagree? We do. I guarantee it. We may disagree on some pretty strongly-felt matters like politics, or social topics, or elections. We may even disagree on ALL of those things. We may even disagree on things that I feel so strongly about that I decide to take a strong stance on them. What do we do?
Paul’s admonition in the passage above from Romans 12 tells it all. We’re called to live in harmony with one another. We’re told to live in humility, not thinking too highly of ourselves. Our responsibility is to live in peace with everyone, or as another translation renders it, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” I dare say, I think more times than not, living in peace with others depends on us more than we’re willing to admit. Another of Paul’s letters cuts to the chase a bit … Philippians 2:3-4 …
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
What I love about this reminder is that it reminds us that we’re to hold other people in higher esteem than our opinions. Let that soak in for a moment. Our obligation to care for God’s people trumps our self-aggrandizement and our uber-protective hold on our opinions and feelings. In fact, Proverbs 18:2 reminds us of how we can be received if all we do is get ugly in arguing about our disagreements …
Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.
Don’t get me wrong. There are things that are indeed objectively true and I am not saying we have to capitulate and agree on everything someone else says to avoid creating a disagreement. I am saying that we can disagree but the manner in which we disagree matters.
In view of the fact that there is objective truth, anything that comes in contradiction to that must be false by definition. No matter what stance you and I decide to carry, 1+1=2. That is objectively and verifiably true. You and I are free to disagree on that, but no matter how fervently I may believe it, 1+1 can never equal anything except 2. God is also true, so anything that contravenes Him is not true. His word is true, so anything that comes in conflict with the Bible is not true. We don’t have to be flimsy with the truth, we just have to “live in peace with everyone,” “thinking of others as better than yourselves.” If “your truth” and “my truth” conflict, then one or both of them is not true. That’s called logic, and it’s objective and inescapable. But we can talk about “the truth” in a caring, humble, and edifying way. That’s called love, and it’s what God expects of us, and the key to our society remaining healthy and intact.
Which brings me to an earlier point. The ugliness resulting from disagreement that seems to pervade our society these days certainly has much of its genesis in our humanness. We as humans have gotten to a point of some pretty bad behavior on sometimes strongly-felt disagreements. But we also have an enemy (Satan) who enjoys stirring the proverbial pot, and pitting us against one another. Why go to the effort of trying to destroy the other army in a war if they are willing to destroy themselves. I fear perhaps that’s what our society has degraded to.
Let me say with all sincerity, I care about you enough to hear you out when we disagree. By God’s grace, my heart is to listen to different perspectives and to share the truth when it comes up, and to do that in a way that demonstrates my love for Jesus and my love for you. I won’t be perfect, and I recognize that you won’t either. So let’s agree that we can disagree in an agreeable way.
Soli Deo gloria!