Okay, I admit it. I dislike conflict. But that doesn’t mean I always avoid it. For some reason, I am nearly always surrounded by friends of a fairly different political persuasion than my own. I find that difficult, especially in election years. When do I stand up for things I believe in, and when do I keep silent? How much are my friends willing to learn from me, and how much am I willing to learn from them? Such questions become critical in the midst of a highly charged political environment in which politicians and political parties are often demonized by those on the other side. Can I disagree in a way that is respectful and calm rather than judgmental and angry? These are things I struggle with.
Recently, a well-known Christian author published a book that was attacked by many in the Christian community and celebrated by many on the outside. I haven’t read it yet, though I am familiar with the author’s work. I suspect the book gets many things right and some things wrong. What troubles me is not so much the mischief that such a book might do but the mischief that Christians do to each other whenever we fail to remember that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. Of course, it’s important to stand up for the truths we believe in, but we contradict those truths whenever we do so in a mean-spirited, judgmental way.
I heard a story a few years ago about a Christian publisher who received a bullet in the mail from a supposed Christian with a note that said he deserved to be shot for publishing a translation of the Bible that the writer disagreed with. Admittedly, that was an extreme case. But most of us have seen how vindictive people can be when cherished beliefs come under attack.
By all means, let’s contend for the faith. But let’s judge ideas rather than judging each other. Whether we are discussing a controversial new book or responding to a conflict at church or at home, let’s ask for the grace to express our differences in ways that don’t contradict the truths we hold dear.