ADVERTISING
 
Tuesday, June 25   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
30 years of internet...
Will digital natives and the "Gen Z" use new technologies with a better ethical/values reflection than the previous generation?



SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Philip S. Powell
 

When Christians disagree, does it matter ‘how’?

Christians must not give up disagreeing with each other. For the sake of truth it matters that we disagree but how we disagree makes all the difference.

JUBILEE CENTRE AUTHOR Philip S. Powell 01 MARCH 2018 09:52 h GMT+1
Photo: Andreas P. (Unsplash, CC0)

Over the past two thousand years of church history Christians have disagreed, sometimes harshly and violently, on almost everything from trivial matters to profound theological questions.



Even deciding on what is trivial and what is not sometimes has led to major disagreement and breakdown of relationship. In the book of Acts we read about the sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas that led to them breaking fellowship and parting company.[1]



Some non-Christian commentators have described ‘disagreement and division’ as the modus operandi of the church. At the same time we are challenged by the words that Jesus prayed: ‘Father, that all of them (Christians) may be one, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me’.[2] Jesus makes a direct link between Christian unity and the world believing in his divinity. This is hard to comprehend and even harder to put into practice.



There is a glaring contradiction between the perfect Trinitarian love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the story of division in the church down the ages. At the time of Prophet Mohammed the Christian believers he encountered, who belonged to Nestorian and Jacobite churches, were condemned by the official church of the Roman Empire as heretics and unbelievers. Might there be a connection between the divisions within the church at that time and Muhammad rejecting the Christian faith? Can it be the case that one of the reasons Muslims today don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus is because Christians are so divided amongst ourselves. There are now over thirty thousand Christian denominations in the world and that number is growing.



So what does it mean for Christians to disagree with fellow believers and at the same time to heed Jesus’ commandment to love one another and live in unity? While disagreement and disunity are certainly not the same thing, there are still some important issues to grapple with.



There are two phrases I’ve come across that are used, even by Christians, in the context of disagreement. One is don’t judge others and the other is let’s just agree to disagree. Both these phrases might at a superficial level seem to deal with the problem of disagreement, but they actually side-step the issues and marginalise the significance of the disagreement. The maxim don’t judge others is itself a statement of judgement. And any agreement with what is false and untrue cannot be considered an act of love. To disagree with someone can be an act of love and a step in the right direction toward knowing truth. Because truth matters, disagreements matter. But we cannot stop here.



What is the difference between disagreement and misunderstanding? For there to be a proper disagreement on something, there has to be a prior shared understanding on that thing, otherwise what we have is a mis-understanding. For example, if one person says that Queen Elizabeth is the greatest British monarch, and another person disagrees with this statement, we need to stop to find out whether both persons are referring to same person. It is possible that one is thinking about Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603) and other is thinking about Queen Elizabeth II (born 21 April 1926). A disagreement assumes a shared understanding, and it is here that I think Christians can and need to improve how we disagree with each other.



Love for one another as Jesus commanded in a practical sense has to mean working to overcome misunderstanding and increase shared understanding. Shared understanding does not mean agreement, it means affirming what we hold and believe in common without letting the disagreement diminish its significance. Without a commitment to shared understanding, disagreements will get magnified and inevitably lead to division, bringing the name of Jesus into disrepute.



Seeking understanding in the context of conflict is a very hard thing to do because it goes against the grain of our human nature. The easy thing to do is to divide into camps, call names and use labels to describe Christians on the other side, deliberately ‘misrepresent’ what another person is saying, and then defend all this in a self-righteous way in the name of ‘love for truth’. Defending truth in an abstract sense takes priority over loving our neighbour in a concrete sense. The goal is no longer ‘how to increase shared understanding’ but how to win the information battle. Fighting these kinds of battles with other Christians we disagree with might, in a weird way, give us a sense of moral authority but hinders the realisation of Jesus’ prayer for unity.



When dealing with disagreement we must make a careful distinction between the issues and ideas we disagree with and the person who holds-affirms them. We make this distinction because we want to keep loving the person we disagree with. There is no commandment in the Bible to stop loving someone just because we disagree with them or they disagree with us. Love has to mean a willingness to communicate and working to increase understanding. A commitment to truth and a commitment to relationship are not mutually exclusive. Also, we have to ask questions about how we communicate our disagreements and judgements about another’s beliefs and opinions. Are we doing it in a way that communicates rejection and condemnation of the other person or group? Or are we doing it in a way that communicates a desire to improve the relationship and increase the possibility of shared understanding.



Whilst the Bible is based on and affirms the fundamental antithesis between truth and falsehood, the Bible does not affirm the distrust and division between Christians based on this antithesis.



Christians must not give up disagreeing with each other. For the sake of truth it matters that we disagree but how we disagree makes all the difference.



Philip S. Powell manages the Learning Community of the Jubilee Centre. 



This article first appeared on the Jubilee Centre website and was republished with permission.





[1] Acts 15:36-41



[2] John 17:21


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - When Christians disagree, does it matter ‘how’?
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels

An interview with the socio-political representative of the European Evangelical Alliance about how evangelical Christians work at the heart of the European Union.

 
Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church

An interview with Lars Dahle, of the Steering Committee of the Lausanne Movement Global Consultation on Nominal Christianity held in Rome.

 
Testimony: Wildfires near Athens Testimony: Wildfires near Athens

Nico Spies, a Christian worker in Athens, gives details about the wildfires in Greece.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
European Freedom Network Bridge 2019 conference European Freedom Network Bridge 2019 conference

Images of the fifth EFN gathering. Experts, activists, counsellors and church leaders met in Pescara, Italy.

 
Glimpses of the ELF 2019 conference Glimpses of the ELF 2019 conference

Evangelical leaders from across Europe meet in Wisla (Poland) to network for mission in a range of fields. The vision is to renew the biblical church and evangelise Europe.

 
AEA Plaza opens to serve African evangelicals AEA Plaza opens to serve African evangelicals

After many years of labour, the Association of Evangelicals in Africa officially opened its new centre in Nairobi, Kenya. “Africa, your time has come!”, said the World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General Efraim Tendero.

 
‘Small churches, big potential for transformation’ ‘Small churches, big potential for transformation’

Photos of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance’s annual gathering “Idea 2019”, in Murcia. Politicians and church leaders discussed about the role of minorities in society.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Luis Palau arrives in Madrid for first overseas outreach since his diagnosis of cancer Luis Palau arrives in Madrid for first overseas outreach since his diagnosis of cancer
At the invitation of hundreds of churches in Spain, the Luis Palau Association are sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ in Madrid, June 15-23, 2019, through numerous outreach events and a 2-day family festival in the heart of the city.
 
Mercy Ships volunteers perform 100,000th free surgical procedure Mercy Ships volunteers perform 100,000th free surgical procedure

The milestone represents an important point in the nonprofit’s 40-year legacy.

 
What are the most important truths that Christians should seek to convey in a secular context? What are the most important truths that Christians should seek to convey in a secular context?

Espen Ottosen talks about the truths Christians should share with people who have little knowledge and/or many prejudices about Christian belief.  

 
A 50-metre high monument will encourage Britons to pray A 50-metre high monument will encourage Britons to pray

Thousands of visitors will have the chance to discover “the God who is alive who listens and answers prayers”.

 
John Lennox on Acts John Lennox on Acts

Professor John Lennox  examines the three supernatural events in the first three chapters of Acts: Jesus' ascension, the Holy Spirit's descent at Pentecost, and the healing of a lame man by the Apostles.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.