Christians are great at a lot of stuff: potlucks, VBS, helping people–the list goes on and on. But ask any Christian to name four or five things that Christians are good at and I bet you 99% of folks will include arguing in their top 5. What, you disagree? Then you just proved my point. Christians enjoy a good argument.
If you’re the kind of Christian who is inclined to disagree (agreeably, of course, because that’s what Jesus would do), here are three things to keep in mind while you fuss and fight.
1. This ain’t new
Christians have been arguing since the very beginning. Way before Fox News, and Duck Dynasty, and Chick-fil-a, and those liberal, young, tattooed Christians who are wrong about everything, the church argued. In fact, you could argue (and wouldn’t you like that!) that church history is just a bunch of big arguments woven together.
We’ve got arguments in Acts 15. We’ve got Paul defending his apostleship and correcting bad theology in his letters. We’ve got official church councils which were, basically, arguments. We’ve got the Great Schism of 1054 when the eastern half of the Roman empire went one way and the western half went another. This was after a bunch of people claiming to be in charge kept excommunicating each other.
There were arguments about Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, church governance, when we’d celebrate Jesus’ birthday and resurrection, and much, much more. It was rough. If those guys knew we were arguing about Pews vs. Stadium Seating or Contemporary vs. Traditional they’d probably roll our eyes and scoff…”Is that the best ya got?”
It’s true…Christians arguing is nothing new.
2. You Need to Listen Better
The people you are arguing with are saying something you’re probably not hearing.
When an octagenarian in your congregation is fed up with the loud beat of the bass drum, they’re not saying they hate everyone under 30. They’re sad because church isn’t how it used to be. Cut them some slack. Half their family is dead, their friends are dying, and they’re just afraid how they practiced faith for 50 years is going to die, too.
When a 20something complains about things being too old fashioned, they aren’t against traditions or members of AARP. They just love Jesus and want their nonChristian friends to meet Jesus and they want to be able to invite their friend to a church that their friend can relate to. For many, they think that means doing things differently than they’ve been done in the past.
Bottom line is this — don’t take it so personally when someone says something you disagree with. The truth is, they’re saying something that you probably can’t hear them say. So listen better.
3. Don’t Let Satan Win Through Division
No one cheers about the Great Schism. Nobody is like, “Hey, remember when we couldn’t get along so we parted ways and never got reunited? That was awesome! Hallelujah!” Everyone knows the church should be united. And yet, it isn’t.
Isn’t it possible to disagree without being divided? I had a Christian tell me once that the very act of disagreeing vocally with them was me being divisive. Follow that logic. If that’s true then we’re all doomed.
In Acts 15, the Church had it’s first big fight. Some Jewish Christians were demanding that non-Jews become Jews first before they became Christians. Others disagreed. They argued about it and then came up with a plan. The same issue comes up in Galatians 2, when Paul calls out Peter right in front of everyone.
Who was right doesn’t matter because who is right doesn’t win if there’s division. We’re allowed to disagree, but when our disagreement drives a wedge between Christians who are linked by common faith in Jesus, we all lose.
No one would say Paul was the one true Christian because of what he thought and Peter was a heretic. No one would doubt Peter’s sincerity, looking at the whole of his life. Arguing can be good and productive (the result of Acts 15 is positive), but churches dividing over leadership, worship style, building projects, and even lesser preferences smears an ugly stain on Jesus’ bride.
Don’t let Satan win. If you want to disagree, fine. But do so as someone who loves the person they are disagreeing with.
We sometimes make light of arguments among Christians, and usually a lot of our razzing is harmless and resembles a family reunion. However, some is quite damaging and I believe we need to take a deep breath and realize three things: this isn’t new, the person who’s arguing with us may be trying to say something we’re not hearing, and we shouldn’t let Satan win by dividing over trivial matters.