When Christians Disagree
I had an interesting conversation with a fellow person of faith recently. We found ourselves talking about the various perspectives of people of faith, specifically those with a faith that rests in the bounds of Classic Christian Doctrine (like the Apostles Creed). We talked about the many disagreements people of faith have about how to interpret scripture and apply it to everyday life. Our conversation ranged from parenting to racial reconciliation to predestination, and then a question arose, “How can people who have the same Spirit disagree?”
I could not help but think of the hurt people of faith have caused one another. The list is soul-crushingly long and ranges from modern-day hate spouted on social media to oppression of people groups to outright war and murder. How is it possible for people who have the same Spirit (Ephesians 4:4-5) to have such disagreement, even to the point of death?
The answer is PRIDE.
Yes, pride. Proverbs 3:34 calls out the prideful and tells the reader that the mocker will themselves be mocked by God. In chapter 4 of the book of James, this Proverb is referenced and applied to how people of faith, brothers and sisters, should treat one another. James 4:11 reads,
“He who speaks against a fellow believer or judges a fellow believer speaks against the law and judges the law.”
That law verse 11 refers to is loving your neighbor as yourself, and James 2:8 references this law as well. The book of James makes a connection between prideful mocking and speaking against other people of faith. The mockers of Proverbs 3:34 can be people in and outside of the faith.
So how do we avoid this pride that leads to the division that then leads to us mocking one another? How do we maintain love while we disagree? The key is humility.
Proverbs 3:34 informs us that God gives grace to the humble. Grace, unmerited favor, is given to the humble and the humble will show this unearned favor to others. A humble faith is needed to love our brothers and sisters. Humility is not super popular–it requires people of faith to “go low,” as a former mentor taught me, and to “go low” often.
However, there is significant pressure to pick a side to every disagreement and defend it staunchly. In an effort to defend our faith in our divisive climate, we can slide into mocking others, even other people of faith. Staying humble requires us to reject the pressure to staunchly choose sides in our areas of disagreement. Staying humble requires us to admit we don’t know the answers to all of the questions we are asked about our faith.
We will have disagreements on how to parent, how to navigate racial reconciliation, how to vote, and what to believe about confusing passages in the Bible. We can maintain a humble faith as we “go low,” admit that interpreting and applying scripture is a complex and life-long task, and accept that although we are moving forward in the best way we know how, we could be wrong. As we maintain this humble faith, it will position us not to take sides in mockery but to love one another and keep God’s law.