[This is a guest post by my friend Ricky Alcantar.]
Disagreement is inevitable. It’s part of life in a fallen world.
We disagree with spouses, with kids, with friends, with coworkers. We disagree about the federal government and church government, about how to date and how to raise kids, about whether you can smoke and what you can drink.
Even in Scripture, godly people disagree. Paul disagrees with Peter. Barnabas disagrees with Paul. John, Jude, Peter, and Paul all disagreed with false teachers in letters they wrote. So while disagreement isn’t pleasant, it’s common, and sometimes it’s necessary.
So in light of this, how can we disagree well as Christians?
When we have disagreements in front of us Ephesians 4:29 is more relevant than ever: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (ESV). This word for corrupting talk is used to describe rotting fruit (Luke 6:43) and putrid fish (Matt 13:48). So how can we make sure that’s not true about our speech.
There are three questions we can ask when we’re faced with a disagreement:
- Does this build up? This means our goal needs to be building up, not just tearing down. If we’re going to disagree with someone’s media habits the goal should not be making our own habits look good in comparison or just watching them squirm – the goal should be seeing them built up in Christ. This also means the way we disagree should serve to build them up as well.
- Does this fit the occasion? Sometimes it’s just not the right time or place to disagree at length. Obviously, if someone loses their job during the day it’s usually not a great idea to criticize their marriage that night. Another thing to keep in mind is that the occasion may include who is included when you disagree. Jesus encourages us to go privately when we address sin (Matt 18:15) and it’s not a bad idea to apply that principle to disagreement. Let me just say that I think this one is especially important to think through in our digital age where when we post something on Facebook or Twitter it’s out there for all of our 100+ friends to see. I’ve had to delete status updates I’d written but not posted because I realized they were veiled disagreements with people I should be talking to personally.
- Does this give grace to those who hear? As Christians we are recipients of the grace of God through Jesus Christ. We deserve wrath but we get grace. That amazing truth should shape our words to others. So when you’re disagreeing is the person across from you receiving wrath or law or are they receiving grace? Grace should be the effect of our words even in the most clear disagreements. Let’s remember that grace is Christ’s goal for ever conversation we have with another believe and let’s make it our goal as well.
Disagreement isn’t always pretty, but it can be done in God-glorifying way. So let’s not toss rotten fruit and spoiled fish at our friends and family. Let?s give them grace instead.