This world does not know how to disagree well. I observe it on social media, print media, television, and between family members and friends.
Nowadays, if someone holds a different position to you it is not uncommon to “unfollow” them—as the American President Donald Trump just did to the Twitter account of British political commentator Piers Morgan—two famous figures who until recently referred to each other as friends.
Disagreement, it seems, is grounds for removing oneself from a relationship with another.
That is what is so alarming about this “cancel culture”. We tend to keep company with people that look, sound and believe as we do. This is the basis for most communities: gangs, sports clubs, and religious organisations.
What is most concerning then is when groups of humans are called to express diverse viewpoints within a singular entity. In such a place, with such a people, disagreement would need to be something that is done well, right?
Of course, I am talking about the church. Differences do (and really, should) abound within the Body of Christ. Jesus sent his followers, intentionally, to “all nations”. All nations naturally translates to quite a bit of diversity.
Christians all around the world gather in a multitude of ways. Denominations do much to keep their unique traditions however even within their own ranks there exists difference and indeed disagreement around how best to maintain said traditions.
However, wherever disagreement exists there tends to be an easy “out” option. Removal of relationship. I highlight this effect of conflict over disagreement because it seems to me to be the most damaging.
Made for relationship
God made us for relationship—with the Divine Trinity, His good creation and our fellow humans. Made in the image of God, we reflect something of God, all of us. To remove ourselves from relationship with someone that thinks or acts different to us has an effect on this divine connection we share.
This divine connection should spur us on to love one another. We may not agree—in fact we most probably will disagree quite strongly. But not at the expense of relationship. Not at the cost of removing our presence from our fellow image-bearers.
In the Genesis account, Adam and Eve step into a reality (post-fruit eating) that exposes them to ruined relationships between God, each other, and creation. Its interesting to note that their relationship to each other “died” in the sense that they were shamed to be naked—all of themselves—to each other.
Since then, humans have removed ourselves from those we relate to, and we become poorer for it.
Leave or live with
Contextually, I have spoken to many a young adult wishing to leave a congregation because their Pastor believes contrary to them. Their theology is too different, perhaps, and so maybe they cannot maintain relationship with them.
One time, I had someone tell me they were leaving for a congregation that believed more of what they did. I warned them.
Outside of vastly different theological positions of some of the “big issues” (and even then I would caution and say separation is the last resort), I would say it grieves God to see saints leave congregations because of differences.
Now in my third year of ministry, I have ministered alongside and to vastly different people—some whose theology lines up completely with mine while others are as opposing as chalk is to cheese.
But I have learnt to live with difference and disagreement because people are bearers of the same image and they like me see things imperfectly. If we as the church can get good at this, then maybe we can truly witness to a world that is struggling to get along with their own differences.
Caleb Haurua completed his Masters in Applied Theology at Carey Baptist College in 2017. He is the Youth Pastoral Leader at Royal Oak Baptist Church in central Auckland. He loves to ponder, muse, and share thoughts. Hence why he likes the opportunity to write articles like this one. He is especially passionate about the intersection between Church and Society—seeing Christians grow and flourish as participants in God’s ongoing mission to the World.