“We need not all agree, but if we disagree, let us not be disagreeable in our disagreements” – M.R. DeHaan.
Though written more than 50 years ago, these words are as timely as ever.
One thing we can all agree on is that we are living in a time of great conflict, controversy and division. We see it on television, on social media, in our communities, churches and families. No area of life is left untouched by the disease of discord. We are afflicted by a greater pandemic than just the current global virus. It is a pandemic of pride, disdain, discouragement, hate and sin.
The symptoms of infection are social division, arguing online, taking joy in the misfortunes of those we disagree with, us-vs.-them thinking, cutting others down in public and in private, no longer listening to or seeking to understand those with different viewpoints, seeking to be right instead of seeking to do right, and seeing disagreement as persecution.
When we believe that we alone are right and everyone else is wrong, we pridefully set ourselves in the place of God as the author of truth. Yes, I believe that there is absolute truth. However, truth is never based in the opinions of the individual, particularly when it comes to complex issues.
None of us are immune. No amount of religion or spirituality is 100 percent effective at preventing a crippling case of contempt. Recently I found myself painfully convicted that I was not following the command to have the same attitude toward my brothers and sisters that Jesus Christ had toward us (Romans 15:5). I had allowed my pride and confidence in my own correctness to stop me from seeing those I disagree with as equally beloved and treasured by God.
In Romans 16:7, the Apostle Paul warned the church to watch out for those who cause division among them. He instructed church leaders to have nothing to do with those who stir up division (Titus 3:10), and listed “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, [and] divisions” as equally sinful as idolatry, sorcery and drunkenness (Galatians 5:20-21). Clearly, those of us who follow Jesus do not have the right to freedom of speech – we are limited by the boundaries God sets.
Romans 12:9-10 commands us to love one another with genuine, brotherly love. The Apostle Peter wrote, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22).
Jesus told his followers that people should be able to identify them by the love that they show for one another (John 13:35). Does the way you love others identify you as Jesus’ follower, or do you look just like everyone else?
There are many commands in Scripture to live in peace and harmony. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Paul tells us, “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). The author of Hebrews encourages, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone” (Hebrews 12:14). Everyone really means everyone, regardless of their opinions, political views or what they share on social media.
None of this is easy. Our natural impulse is to make our voice loudest and cut down everyone else. Only by inviting God to work in our hearts through the Holy Spirit can we be changed. When we let God transform our heart and mind, we will see that each person we interact with is also made in God’s image and is just as worthy of love and respect as ourself.
Jessica Weeks is Grace Church’s children’s ministry director. She received her bachelor’s degree in biblical studies and her master’s degree in elementary education from Liberty University. She enjoys reading, cooking, traveling and spending time with friends and family. She and her husband, Mike, have two sons, Crispin and Aidan, and a daughter, Anna Kate.