Agreeing to DisagreeIn the journey that my wife and I have been on spiritually for the last couple years, I have been blessed to have several people come into my life off of whom I can bounce thoughts and ideas without fear of rejection or condemnation. One friend in particular has become a great partner in this journey. (I'll call him David, if for no other reason than that is actually his name!) Yesterday, I had lunch with David and discussed an area of frustration for me -- how to disagree without breaking fellowship.
If you read the first post in this blog (Getting Started), you know that I subscribe to a very short list of "essential doctrines" for fellowship. This has come from many years of watching non-essential doctrines divide believers in unnecessary ways. And it's not even limited to doctrines, to be truthful. Just "issues" that come up. They may be:
- Republican/Democrat (or American/non-American)
- Contemporary P&W/Hymns only
- KJV-only/Other translations
Already, I can hear the mouses clicking as people give up reading this and write me off as some ecumenical, one-world-religion heretic. But please! Hear me out on this! It's not what you think. Look over my short list again. Is there room for one world religion in that? Any room for "all roads lead to God"? Not remotely! But there is room for the other issues that currently divide us.
Here's the deal, with great thanks to my friend, David, for helping me talk through this topic and understand it better. We have an obligation, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, to attempt to preserve the peace in the Body. Now, notice a very key word there: "attempt". Paul said in Romans 12:18 that as much as it depends on us, we should do what we can to live at peace with each other. The link includes all of chapter 12 because the context is very important. It's instruction Paul gives right in the midst of a long series of comments with regard to how we get along as one body. One body. Not multiple bodies. One.
I confess that I am guilty, even with my short list, of finding it hard to continue to fellowship with people when we disagree on other areas of understanding. For example, there have been some who have misunderstood the simple church concept as merely "having problems with authority", being in rebellion -- you name it, it's been said to me! And so sometimes, in those disagreements, we find that we no longer hang out with certain people. We no longer enjoy their company. Oh, we smile and say "hi" when we see them, but there's no unity and fellowship there. That's sad.
But I come to this issue now with a fresh understanding that it is my obligation to which I'm responsible. If they don't want to fellowship with me, then that's their issue between them and God. But as much as it depends on me, I want to make sure I'm not the one putting the wall up. What would happen if we all took that approach?
So, I'm starting today with a new resolve to try to live this out practically. If you have a different sense of what "church" should be, we can still be brothers and sisters. If you have a different idea of what "trials and tribulations" mean, then we can still walk together -- provided that we agree on the essentials. Anything apart from the short list has to be allowed to be up for debate. That means agreeing to disagree on those things without separating over them.
Do you believe Jesus Christ is the only possible way to the Father? And have you put your trust in Him for that salvation? Then we are one. Let's live it!
Until next time,