How should Christians disagree with others? Dr. Scott Redd provides practical suggestions on how to love our neighbors when we disagree with them.
I think it behooves Christians to disagree charitably with others, not only in a public forum, but in a private forum as well. This is how we in part show our worship of God by loving our neighbor in whose image he’s made. When we gather together with people who we disagree with on a variety of issues, I think there’s a couple of guidelines we need to be mindful of.
Find Common Ground
One of them is this: is there anything that the person I’m disagreeing with says that is true? Is there something that’s true and good that I can affirm? That’s one of the first places. I think so commonly, particularly in political discourse, but also in social media discourse, probably even more so nowadays, the temptation is to create sides, and then you oppose whoever is against you, no matter what they say. And yet I think we need to be mindful: what are they saying that’s true? Where is common ground that we can gather together upon and then have our disagreements spring out of that?I think it behooves us as Christians who love our neighbors to show that love by spending the time, investing the energy to understand exactly what it is they are saying.
Understand the Other Position
Secondarily—and this is kind of tied to the first—do I rightly understand my opponent’s position? In other words, can I properly articulate their position in a way that they would say, “Yeah, you’re you’re disagreeing with something that I’ve actually said and not some kind of straw man or something like that.” I think it behooves us as Christians who love our neighbors to show that love by spending the time, investing the energy to understand exactly what it is they are saying.
Thirdly, I think we do have to recognize that there are times for public disagreement and there are times where maybe disagreement shouldn’t be made public or maybe even needs to be ignored. The author of Proverbs says that we should answer a fool in his folly and yet, of course, also famously says, “Don’t answer a fool in his folly lest he become wise in his own eyes.” The wisdom between those two different teachings, when to answer and when not to, is really to be able to understand what situations are proper for an answer and what situations aren’t. That’s a wisdom issue.
That can sometimes be a hard part of the Christian life. So much of the decisions that we make are actually wisdom issues: should I do this now? Should I answer this person at this point? Is this the proper forum? Will there be a fair hearing? I think Christians need to think clearly and rigorously about the wisdom of answering in certain forums and answering certain kinds of interlocutors to make sure that we don’t increase folly in the world, but rather that we decrease it and increase wisdom, increase truth.