I learned early in life there is no other person who sees everything the way I do. Not my wife, my children, or my closest friends always agree with me. And as a child my parents repeatedly disagreed with me and my wants and choices. Surely we know differences are not uncommon because we witness how much and how often people hold opposing views.
So what happens when we do not see eye to eye on something? Responses can vary from hostility to apathy, but often we do little to resolve differences. It seems we would rather do nothing sometimes and just stay angry or not care than tackle the problem. I know we want to avoid conflict because it is seldom pleasant, however if the issue is important then we need to stand our ground. (Acts 4:18-20)
This does not mean we should argue and fight every time we differ on something because some issues matter not. Does it make any great difference if you paint the room blue or green, or if you go out for Mexican food or Italian food? Clearly people can disagree in both examples, but we should not have a meltdown if it happens. So when you disagree with someone make sure the battle is worth fighting.
No battle is more worthy than when we disagree spiritually. There is right and wrong, black and white, in religion because God has set the boundaries. (2 John 9-11) Surely we should want to agree on what is right by being right. It does no-good to agree that something is right when it is wrong. (Isaiah 5:20) What happens if two people in separate cars agree to take a wrong turn? They both end-up at the wrong place if they do not straighten it out.
Since we cannot avoid clashes we need to learn how to resolve them as peacefully as possible. God guides us by His Word on how to treat each other when we disagree about something important. Remember what we are trying to achieve in this case, we are trying to preserve peace while knowing and agreeing on truth. (1 Cor. 1:10)
When we disagree with someone God wants us to look at ourselves first. The apostle Paul was not always well received by the Christians at Corinth. Some even questioned and disagreed with his teaching. As Paul was closing Second Corinthians he dealt with this matter and told the people to “examine” and “test” themselves. (2 Cor. 13:5)
It stands to reason if I am going to disagree with someone to a point of challenging their position then I need to make sure I am right. Paul told Timothy to “rightly handle the word of truth” which simply means to get it right. (2 Timothy 2:15) So not only can we get it right, God expects us to get it right when we teach others. (James 3:1)
We also need to show love and humility when we approach someone we disagree with. (Gal. 6:1) I know we cannot compromise truth and we must stop error, but we should not use this as an excuse to be mean and haughty. Remember we are trying to restore one who has fallen from God’s grace.
Have you ever made a great argument or spent hours working through evidence backing your position only to find out you made no progress? It can be frustrating to say the least and make anyone lose their patience. These are the moments we need to “bear with one another” and understand that brother or sister needs some more convincing. (Eph. 4:1-3) If we lose our temper and say something we should not we may not get another chance to talk to them.
Would it not be great for you to put me before you in any disagreement we might have? But wait a minute that is what I am supposed to do. (Phil, 2:3-4) I need to think of your needs and wants before my own. Again, I am not saying we should ignore error, but think about how much better our talks would go if we put others first.
James gives some good advice when he says “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19) I know how easy it is to want to answer every question and point quickly when you differ with someone. However, when we do this we often do not hear all that’s said. It can become a shouting match, you may not do a good job of answering the points made, and for sure if you anger the other person he is not going to listen to you. So sit back, take your time, and answer carefully if you want to reach someone else.
My final point is, never have the position we can agree to disagree, unless it is an issue that does not matter. And understand if it matters to one it has to matter to both. What I mean by this is unless both parties believe the issue does not matter then you cannot agree to disagree. I also want to say that just because both agree it does not matter does not make it so. Many religious people agree that sex outside of marriage is not sin, but God says otherwise. (1 Cor. 6:9) Many say that marriage should be for any couple in love, but that is not God’s Will. (Matt. 19:4-6) Most “Christian” faiths say it does not matter what you believe or what church you attend, but the Bible says it make a difference. (Eph. 4:4-6) If we must disagree with someone, let us make sure it is not God.