Archive for March, 2010

How do we handle our disagreements?

Here’s one of the challenges facing separatists as we navigate the current cultural issues…

If a church (or ministry) acknowledges that some course of action does not violate any biblical principle, yet they believe the better part of wisdom is found in not doing it, how do they relate to those who come to a different conclusion?

The risk of demanding conformity to our personal (or even congregational) judgments about what is wise is that we might be found elevating our sense of what is best to a place equal to Scripture. The risk of ignoring what seems to be an unwise practice is that we might give them the impression that this is a matter of no consequence at all. What is to be done about this?

Option one is to magnify our disagreements to the point of withholding or withdrawing from fellowship over them.

Option two is to ignore our disagreements for the sake of maintaining or engaging in fellowship in spite of them.

Option three is to engage our disagreements in a way that is helpful to folks on both sides of the issue and does not demand for either to abandon sincerely held convictions in order to maintain fellowship. IOW, because we are genuinely convinced of our position, we marshal arguments to convince others, but, since these are matters of applied wisdom, we allow room for sincere believers to have differing convictions.

I am convinced that option three is the only way forward. I don’t believe that means that disagreements won’t affect our relationships and partnerships at all. Sure they will. It will happen, though, as deemed necessary by the task or purpose at hand, not as a hard rule for every aspect of our relationship. We will engage or abstain based on how what we believe and practice is affected by what others believe and practice, not simply because they believe or practice differently.*

It is a mistake, I believe, for us to assume that others who disagree with us in matters like this do so from impure motive or as a cloak for sinful activity. That might be true, but assuming it is wrong and pre-determines the outcome of the whole discussion. And, I am afraid, in many ways it says something very bad about our own arrogance—we have assumed a position of judge which is not ours and we have assumed a stance which is not open to discussion about matters of judgment. It is posturing, not sincere ministry to others for whom we should have genuine concern. We may need to meditate on James 3:13-18.

*Remember, the point here is about matters of judgment, not matters of fundamental doctrine.

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