Sunday, January 27, 2008

Disagreeing In A Heavenly Way

My dear friend and I were chatting about a political issue recently when suddenly it was apparent that we held opposing views. She was stunned at my position and I was equally surprised about hers. We began to ask questions and challenge each other.

There was a little bit of posturing to establish each of our qualifications to have a valid opinion. Then we had a little back-and-forth debate. Fortunately we have more in common than not, so we were able to leave it at that.

Husbands and wives disagree on things like who should keep track of and pay the bills or which church to attend. Children and parents don’t see eye-to-eye on the best age to have a cell phone or start driving. Life is full of discord on a daily basis.

The main reason for that is we are all wired to want our own way. It is our nature and it is counter-intuitive to really put someone else’s desires, agendas or opinions on equal ground with our own.

Saying, “Gee Whiz…why can’t we all just get along?” is pretty trite and not very honest. It is hard to lay down our “right” to be right. For most of us, being right feels good. When we set that aside, and agree to disagree, it feels more like the opposite of right, and I’m not talking about left! Nobody likes to be wrong.

I’m writing about a very controversial issue right now and in doing research it is imperative that I’m capable of interviewing and chatting with people in a way that doesn’t incorporate my opinions. The job at hand is to gather information and insight, not to educate or enlighten (and I can be so enlightening, just ask me!). It isn’t easy to keep a neutral expression on my face and keep the conversation on comfortable ground. Often I’m nearly biting my tongue off to keep from telling the person how ignorant he his and why.

This exercise—much more strenuous than squats or situps—is teaching me that while being still and honestly listening, I’m learning to be more open. What began as a necessary evil and was often a pretense for me, has evolved into good relationship practice and true character development. I’m stunned to find out that there are times when I’m not entirely right!

In their book Reconcilable Differences (Life Journey) Nancy Parker Brummett and Alice Scott-Ferguson say that even while disagreeing vehemently they can remain friends because they agree on the Gospel of Christ. They believe that the kind of love Paul talked about in 1st Corinthians 13 sustains us through the conflicts. “How can Satan win in the face of such love?” Brummett asks. (p225)

Two additional tips they offer that help friends who disagree are learn to compromise and pray for one another. “It’s so true that it’s impossible to hate someone for whom you are praying.” Says Brummett. (p227)

“Our differences are decidedly temporal and—in light of eternity—have no lasting power to divide us,” Scott-Furguson says. (p227)

It is really great to know we own that much power. We can choose to let our differences shape and decide our friendships or we can love our way through them and fellowship the way we will eventually in Heaven. Let me know if you agree or if we need to argue about it!

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1 comment:

Marilynn said...

Pastor Alan said living for Christ is to love God first than love others. With that said we learn patience, gentleness,kindness and most of all self-control. Biting our tongues at times is hard but when we listen we do learn. Sometimes the other view is needed to soften us. Thanks for the reminder to listen and pray for our friends with differences.
Sister in Christ,