Disagreement is a funny thing. Well, maybe funny isn’t the right word (but interesting might be overused). You see, on one hand, agreement is our goal (2 Corinthians 13:11). We also know that we are not to be selfish and always demand our own way. At the same time our discomfort with disagreement may be because of other reasons. Ungodly fears of rejection and of being wrong can often dictate our emotional response more than godly commitments. In order to tease out our motivation we need to both be aware of our emotions and also what triggers them.
In our passage Sunday (Acts 15:36-41) we learned about a disagreement that was unavoidable between Barnabas and Paul. They disputed as to whether John Mark should join them on another missionary journey. (As a side note, why do we call this the “second missionary journey”? Isn’t it their third? First was the journey from Antioch to Jerusalem with help for Jewish Christians, second to Cyprus and southern Turkey in an evangelistic form of outreach. Maybe we think of missionary as only having to do with word ministry as opposed to deed?) This disagreement within the body of Christ was unavoidable because a) they are humans and will not have God’s perspective on the issue b) God didn’t speak into the situation with his perspective and c) John Mark’s sinful behavior added the irrationality of sin into the picture. So, at the point where they had their “sharp disagreement” the goal was to disagree to the glory of God.
So how could they (and how can we) disagree to the glory of God? We need to disagree with humility, without despising and as those who are ultimately answerable to the risen Christ our Lord. We must be humble because we are only human and God hasn’t given us his divine perspective on our particular situation. Humility is requisite because of the many ways sin has fractured the many situations we find ourselves in. Despising and hatred do not have a place among us, and so when we have differing opinions we must nevertheless respect the other (Romans 14:1-3). Despising those we have disagreed with shows that there is something amiss about the way we are relating to our brother, sister and/or God. Finally we must be able to stand before Jesus and be able to say we took our position out of concern for his glory and good for our neighbor. Jesus died and rose to the end “that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living” (Romans 14:9-10). If your goal in defending your position is to please your father, friend or professor without any thought to Christ and his judgment than your disagreement is less than gospel disagreement. That is because gospel disagreement will always seek to be agreeable to Christ’s will. We cannot disagree with God.
So, how are you doing in your relationships? Do you agree with people, simply to keep them from leaving you? Do you disagree with people simply to be the first to do so since you believe they will reject you anyways? Where do your fears about disagreement come from? Are they rooted in the gospel of God’s grace through Jesus Christ? When we know that we are accepted by God eternally through Jesus and that God’s people are striving to work out disagreements in this way our lives will increasingly grow into the harmonious unity that God desires for us.
Questions for Conversation
What is the worst disagreement you’ve ever had? Why was it so bad? Were your emotions coming from a place of fear? If so, what were you afraid of?
Are you embarrassed of that disagreement? Why?
Will you be able to stand before your Savior in good conscience regarding the position you took in that disagreement?
Is it possible to contact that person and remain connected to them in a healthy way? How could you do so?