You have no doubt had the awesome privilege of disagreeing with someone at some point in your life. If not - then perhaps you should consider moving off your own private island just for one day. Why so much disagreement in our world? Truthfully, it is just the nature of humanity to disagree with someone other than oneself! It's a rule stated somewhere in a break room where OSHA posters hang, trust me!
Disagreeing with someone, though, is not the issue. In fact, we all grow through rub, i.e., difference. No one can grow in a well-rounded way, in their thinking, convictions, or beliefs in a place where everyone thinks and acts in the same way. We need that rub, we need someone who disagrees with us, we need people who do not see eye-to-eye with us for genuine growth to happen! But how can we do that graciously?
While it is okay to disagree, it is not okay to disagree ungraciously. Here are seven things to consider when you find yourself disagreeing with someone:
1. Know that "nobody" agrees with "everyone" in "everything."
Truly "nobody" in this life totally agrees with "everyone" in "everything". Try to find someone that absolutely or entirely agrees with everything you say and believe, and you will likely find yourself in either a cult or on an island all to yourself. News flash - not everyone agrees with you! Often, we seek to align ourselves with as many people as possible who agree with us, only to find out that our echo chambers end up becoming debate halls. Why? Because nobody agrees with everyone in everything, and that is perfectly okay!
2. Be willing to look beyond your own perspective or opinion.
I get it! "A man persuaded against his will is of the opinion still." It is almost futile to make any attempt to persuade people against their will. And yet, God has provided so many influences in our lives for a reason! It is much easier to graciously disagree with someone when you know they could potentially teach you something. I firmly believe that a growing man often advocates for what he has learned afresh and is evermore in a state of confirming how he was wrong in doing so! Being willing to look beyond your own opinion won’t hurt you. It might teach you something – perhaps humility?
3. Understand that differences do not change the truth.
You may disagree with me, and I may disagree with you, and the awesome thing is that the truth will never be affected! Truth is the truth! It is not subject to either one of our differences. Our differences are subordinate to the truth and not the other way around. How awesome it is when we are able to mutually agree that we may disagree with each other but never with the truth! Even more, how awesome it is to hear a brother say, "I am still learning, and where I stand today is open to change tomorrow because I want the truth to govern my life." That is a win for all!
4. Learn to articulate the difference.
Could you accurately articulate your brother's position on a matter? Or are you more prone to shame a brother for being different than you in theology, convictions, and preferences? In the age of memes, it is easy to shame a person, group, or theological perspective that is different than yours through jest. However, just because you can successfully shame someone in a cute meme does not make your perspective right. In fact, you have lost something - namely the ability to articulate their position well by subjecting it to a picture with a few shallow words. Disagreeing with someone can prove to be far more gracious when you know "why" you disagree with them and “how” to do so. When you can accurately articulate or defend someone else's position – all win!
5. Learn to discuss and not only debate.
Discussion is appealing to those who honor others, and debate is often appealing to those who want a personal win. Anyone can learn on either platform, but nothing can take the place of two people sitting down with one another, and just talking with each other face to face. Debate is often broadcasted and promoted for others to “see what we know." Gracious discussion on the other hand allows two people, or more, to get together and just “listen to each other and learn.” No promotion, no fans, and no snarky comments in the side chat needed! Perhaps we need more opportunities to just get together to talk and not taunt each other? By the way, it is still “Good and pleasant when brethren dwell together in unity.” (Psalm 133:1)
6. Be willing to say that you simply do not know.
How unfortunate to see so many young people today become experts on something overnight. Give them a platform on social media and voila! Six books on a theological topic make no one an expert. It is interesting that several of my professors in seminary (all who hold Ph.D.'s) have made mention that when they completed their academic doctorates that they were finally experts only in "one" small area of study - their dissertation topic alone! Oh, the significant amount of time and discipline it takes to become a so-called expert in a small area! In contrast, the so little time it takes for one to say, “I just do not know.” It is easier to disagree graciously when you are okay with not knowing everything.
7. Even in disagreement, the gospel must go forward!
My mind races to the sharp contention that was between Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15:36-41. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark throughout all the cities to see how the brethren were doing. Paul completely disagreed! The disagreement that these two giants had between one another was so sharp that they departed ways. We can only speculate what was said in the departure outside of what the Scriptures tell. But one thing is certain, despite their disagreement on a matter, the gospel still went forward, and the churches were still strengthened! (Acts 15:41) Mine and your disagreement (no matter how sharp) should never set pause to the gospel!
I hope these seven considerations help you and someone else not only agree to disagree, but to disagree graciously.
Pastor Rob Martinez
City Rise Baptist Church, Albany NY