This article addresses how to get along with fellow believers even when they disagree with each other. It was originally written in September of 2017.
When Christians Disagree
Research-based Principles of Christlike Discourse
“And the tongue is a fire...” James 3:6
True Christians will not always agree (Acts 15:37: Galatians 2:11-17). HOW we as Christians disagree tells a lot about whether we are truly Christ-like or Christians in name only. What we say and how we say it is an indication as to what lies deep within our hearts (Luke 6:45). Where there is strife, debate, and gossip our religion means absolutely nothing to God (James 1:26) regardless of whatever else we do.
We submit that Seventh-day Adventists who aspire to be truly Christ-like will do the following:
1. We will agree on the foundational beliefs of our Church. Membership in a church assumes basic agreement on foundational doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. For items other than core doctrines, we will engage in a COMPREHENSIVE search what the Bible and Ellen White’s writings say about a given topic within an atmosphere of prayerful humility and an open willingness to learn.
2. We will listen carefully and respectfully. We will be “swift to hear and slow to speak” (James 1:19; Proverbs 18:13). Restating what others say before we respond helps us better understand what they are saying even if we may not agree. This act in itself shows Christ-like consideration (Matthew 7:12).
3. We will not judge “before the time” (Romans 2:1; 1 Cor. 4:5). We realize that our own “mental bias, imperfect knowledge, errors of judgment, prevent a right understanding of matters with which we have to do!” (Mount of Blessings, p. 68). This realization will prevent us from arriving at premature conclusions.
4. We will advocate for truth. In speaking truth, we will avoid both “violence” (speech designed to harm others), and “silence” (failing to address issues due to cowardice). We will be fearless in our pursuit of what is right. At times, Christ was direct in pointing out sin, but on those occasions, recorded in scripture, He did so with tears in His voice and without any hint of ill temper (DA, 618).
5. We will avoid communication designed to hurt. Expressions that are intended to belittle or vilify others hurt the church as an organization and murder the reputation of its members (Proverbs 26:20). They foment divisiveness, erode trust, and put the worse construction on the motives of others. The biblical process (Matt. 18:15) advocates working out differences one-on-one.
6. We will be humble. We will not look down on others because they sin differently than ourselves. We are aware that the worse type of sin is pride (Proverbs 6:17) and the worse type of pride is spiritual pride (Luke 18:11; and Revelation 14:17). We also know that caring relationships are far more effective in changing others than critical words of condemnation or even giving others “the facts” (John 3:17).
A word fitly spoken as of apples of gold in pictures of silver (Proverbs 25:11). The tongue can either be a wonderful blessing or a horrific curse (James 3). Can we resolve that our words be “with grace seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6)? Are we willing to commit to healthy, productive criticism?
Paul S. Brantley