BLOG: Disagree like Jesus | Baptist messenger from Oklahoma
It’s a word we’d rather avoid and spend a lot of time on wringing our hands on. Conflict in our workplace, conflict in our families, conflict in our circles of influence, each of them threatens us with relationship fractures and emotional anxiety.
Of course, we can be quite the opposite. We can love conflict. We can research Twitter threads and Facebook posts by diving deep into comments with boxing gloves on, waiting for a target to lash out with our minds.
We know that as people living in the midst of the kingdoms of this world, but living for a greater kingdom, there will inevitably be times when we need to dig into our healings and stand up for the truth, no matter what. We also know that in our flesh we can often want to be right. Desires to justify themselves, to see our preferences prevail, or to fight back against a social media post can be difficult to control.
In today’s unstable emotional climate, it seems nearly impossible to maintain unity despite diversity. Tribalism, identity politics, and the ability to easily build echo chambers around us have all fueled a cultural era in which we view people as relational binary – either for us or against us.
When it comes to relationships with church members, however, issues of conflict and disagreement take on entirely new hues. If we are brothers and sisters in Christ, united as a family of faith, is it okay to have conflicts with one another? Can we disagree on certain issues while remaining united on others?
If we are followers of Jesus, we should seek to follow in his footsteps. But in times of disagreement, how do we know whether we should follow Jesus to overturn the tables or the quiet waves? Here are some ideas that can help us to disagree well.
Know who you represent
You are not yours. You were bought with a price. We need to remember that our old lives were crucified with Christ and that we are now walking in a resurrected life. Therefore, in any encounter, we must remember that we are not participating as those who seek to build our own kingdom, but that of God.
Jesus was never child’s play, but He also rebuked the disciples when they wanted to call lightning on those who did not receive them. Our Savior made demons tremble with fear before His power, but even the weakest child was safe in His arms. Why? Because it was clear who Jesus represented. Jesus came to do the will of the Father who is fearful in power, but great in mercy.
To the rebels and the broken, Jesus offered compassion, mercy and grace. To the haughty religious elite who took the name of God upon themselves, but did not represent it to the world around, Jesus had stinging rebuke and steely resolve. But He died for the people on both sides. It is the Savior we are to follow in disagreement – the one who stood firm for the truth, yet died for those stuck in the lie.
Know your battles
Not all hills are worth killing, and not all battles are worth fighting. Sometimes the best way to put out a fire is to let it go out. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been for Jesus to walk among simple people like me who continually say the wrong thing the wrong way and need constant correction. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for Jesus to grow up and live in a time of foreign Roman occupation in which those in power wielded paper swords against him.
The main reason I cannot adequately describe or imagine these things is that so few of these encounters exist in the scriptures. I can imagine how Jesus would treat a person sexually broken by a rival enemy of my tribe. The woman at the well tells me. I can imagine how Jesus would converse with a religious man who was wrong on so many levels while still being curious about the truth. Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus tells me so. But I don’t know how Jesus would wade through the weeds and do ad hominem attacks. He did not fight these battles.
If you’re just a hammer looking for a nail, you won’t be a carpenter like Jesus. Know what you are building. Choose your battles.
Know your enemy
Paul reminds us, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). What angers us in our minds and disagrees with us shouldn’t be people, but powers.
When Jesus rebuked Peter in Matthew 16 for a seemingly innocent and well-meaning statement of support, it was not Peter he rebuked, but the source of the idea he expressed. Jesus did not fight man, he fought what held man captive.
If we are going to disagree like Jesus, we need to remember what we are opposed to. We are against any kingdom that opposes the Kingdom of our King. But we also seek to free the captives who live on their domain.
Of course, the most important thing to remember in order to discern how to disagree like Jesus is to remember one important detail: you are not Jesus. In fact, you might be wrong. Have the humility to listen first and examine yourself before cross-examining. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not fulfill the righteousness of God” (James 1: 19-20).
May we all, as brothers and sisters, remain together in unity, even when we do not agree.