Jesus said the world would know we are His disciples if we love one another, but what happens when Christians disagree? Is it possible to love people while disagreeing with them?
Actually, I believe there are opportunities to love each other, despite disagreeing, that can prove to be a great witness to the world! In our society it is common for disagreements to cause a break in relationship, to split business partnerships, to turn violent, or explode on social media. BUT… what would happen if people witnessed Christians disagreeing in a way that demonstrates love, humility, grace, understanding, mutual respect and growing appreciation?
Now, disagreements among Christians are not a new problem, however it appears Covid has certainly brought out more disagreements. Even to the point of long-term close friendships being threatened, churches being split, and families being divided.
The Bible teaches us how to lovingly disagree
Thankfully, the Bible provides some principles for teaching Christians how to get along with one another (and yes, even to love one another) in areas where the Bible doesn’t give us clear instruction.
Whatever disagreements you have now and into the future, I encourage you to follow these God given principles so you may love one another and be a witness to the world. I’m just going to pull out some key ideas from Romans chapter fourteen and hopefully you can apply these truths in our own lives.
Principles to apply when Christians disagree
The first principle to mention in this chapter is we are to welcome those we have disagreement with and are to do so without trying to cause an argument or prove them wrong. Rather than passing judgement on each other or despising the other person, we should all understand God has accepted, welcomed, and embraced them as His child (see Romans chapter 14, verses 1-4).
The second principle to note is that each person should be fully convinced of their position. This places the responsibility on everyone to spend time studying God’s Word, humbly listening to arguments on both sides and forming their own opinion about what they believe God’s Word teaches. Once someone has arrived at their position, they should live this out in a way that honors the Lord (see verses 5-9).
The next principle to highlight is that all of us will stand before God and give an account for our actions. Now, for Christians, this does not mean we will be judged for our sin (that is dealt with once and for all by Jesus on the cross), but we will receive rewards or lack of rewards for our behaviour. So then, how we live out our own convictions and how we respond to those with different convictions will be a matter in which we will give an account to God (see verses 10-12).
This is important to me, since when I stand before God, I want to know that I have pleased Him will all my actions. It is my delight to obey Him and follow Him and I don’t want to do anything that will compromise my relationship with Him now and in the future.
A fourth principle is to make sure we don’t do something that will cause another Christian to stumble into sin. This does not mean we should not live out our convictions, but we may need to choose on occasion, out of love for our fellow believer, to limit the freedoms we feel we have for the sake of someone else. Therefore, instead of judging or offending we are called to pursue peace and what will build each other up (see verses 13-19).
For example, if you don’t believe you should wear a mask to sing in Church, but know this will offend others around you, I would encourage you to wear a mask. If, on the other hand, you believe you should wear a mask and the people around you are not, remember you are not to judge them.
Lastly, whenever Christians disagree, it is important each believer is encouraged to follow their convictions. Paul, plainly and simply says that if we don’t live out our convictions, it is sin (see verses 20-23).
So, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who is right and wrong about an issue, if someone does not follow what they are convinced the Bible teaches, it is sin. For this reason, trying to pressure someone into agreeing with you, or encouraging them to compromise their conscience is deliberately urging them to sin.
It’s important to add that the areas of disagreement being discussed in this article are related to matters that are not clearly given in the Bible. The Bible is very clear about a lot of issues and it is necessary for Christians to determine if the Bible is explicitly clear or if there is some degree of uncertainty. Either way, whether we disagree with Christians or non-Christians we have the responsibility to be respectful, gentle, humble and loving.
It is also appropriate and helpful to engage in loving, respectful conversations with other believers about issues we disagree on. Such discussion should be edifying to both sides and deepen our respect and appreciation for the other party, even if we continue to disagree.
Genevieve Wilson is Canadian. a happily married home-schooling mum of 3, whose passion is to see people come to know Jesus. She is a seminary wife to her amazing husband.