How well do you disagree? There are many styles that people use to deal with disagreements. Here’s a few unhealthy styles that I’ve observed. The Talker. This person just keeps spewing words and arguing his or her point until those who disagree are too tired to bother anymore. The Volcano. This person is doesn’t have the courage to face a disagreement and just buries everything until the pressure is too much and he just explodes. The Bully. This person is very aggressive both in making their point and in criticizing the opinions or arguments of others, making their opponents feel intimidated to express a differing opinion. The Saboteur. This person will not confront their opponent unless backed into a corner choosing instead to criticize and defame or discredit his or her opponent and/or their position.
When unhealthy styles of confrontation are used relationships are damaged and even destroyed. Everybody has to figure out how to best approach disagreements, even, or maybe especially in the church. In fact Jesus said that the people will know we are his followers by how well we disagree. Sadly many of us aren’t very good representatives.
The Bible speaks in many places about how to disagree, but in Ephesians 4:2 I find four characteristics that will help us to develop a healthy way to disagree.
First is humility. That implies respecting and honoring others even when they oppose you. Be willing admit that their opinion is valid and worth considering.
The second is gentleness. Even if your perspective is proven right but you’ve destroyed a relationship to win an argument you still lose.
The third is patience. One of my struggles in arguments is to remember that it’s not my responsibility to change the other person. Paul, in Philippians 3:15 demonstrates this principle when he says that even if you disagree with him, that’s ok because God will eventually reveal what is true.
The fourth is forgiveness. Sometimes even if you are employing the first three characteristics your opponent may not be. If you extend forgiveness in your heart, even before it’s asked for, the relationship can still be saved and a healthy resolution to the disagreement is possible.
Nowhere in scripture does it suggest that we ought to agree on everything. But if we are living in submission to God’s direction and control in our lives, he will produce in us these characteristics that enable us to agreeably disagree.