With so much information accessible at our fingertips, we have seemingly become experts on a vast array of topics or at least we like to think so. We can so easily cling to opinions as if they are gospel and need our utmost allegiance and defense. When we engage with others on these topics, we may find great difficulty when we come across someone who openly disagrees with us. Disagreement can feel like a hard pill to swallow. It can feel like an attack on our intelligence or our perception of any scenario. Nevertheless, our greatest difficulty with disagreement is that we are far too often looking too much at ourselves.
We might find it difficult to embrace the different thoughts, ideas, and opinions of others when they don't match our own. Though our differences should be celebrated, we often see differences as an obstacle to overcome. Now, I'm not referring to disagreements on primary issues. It's important that we are of sound mind and doctrine and that our thoughts align with Scripture. We should hold one another accountable to the Word of God and what it says. I'm referring to personal opinions like political parties, what school your child should attend, or your opinions about vaccines. We should not be surprised by the many ways we could think differently about these topics. It is when we are surprised that sin can warp our view of differences. We can be tempted as Christians to hear opinions, thoughts, experiences that differ from our own and personalize them. Instead of appreciating a unique point of view, we can take offense to the fact that we are not being agreed with. This kind of mindset is one of the biggest ways we can create division in our communities and churches. It may lead us to think negatively of certain people, attack others, to exclude someone, to speak unkindly, or to avoid conversations with those we know have different opinions. But this is not how Jesus calls us to respond to our differences. Jesus came to demolish division and to unite His people in the redeeming work of the gospel.
The apostle Paul affirms our need to be united even in our differences, and he encourages us to pursue unity in this way:
I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call– one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.Ephesians 4:1-6
So, how can we continue to seek unity even when we disagree? By remembering what binds us together - the gospel of Jesus Christ - which calls us out of the darkness and into His marvelous light. We do so by walking faithfully as an ambassador of Christ and not an ambassador of ourselves. We can eagerly desire to seek unity by responding to disagreements in humility and gentleness, with patience. We can seek to listen and understand instead of refuting and combating. We can be slow to speak and quick to listen. We can consider the interests of others by engaging in conversations constructively. We don't have to draw the same conclusions to have a gracious and loving conversation about something.
As Christians, we have the opportunity to respond to disagreements differently than the world. We are called to be set apart, and what sets us apart more than learning to be united despite disagreement? Learning to respect the thoughts and opinions of another even if it doesn't align with our own, reminds us that we are united by something more. We are bound by something far more lasting than any agreement - we are bound by gospel hope in Jesus Christ. He unites Christians across gender lines, socioeconomic lines, cultural lines, and even bloodlines. Consider the gift of having variation, diversity, and differences to walk forward into a world as ambassadors of Christ. Imagine the different ways each of us can uniquely contribute to the Kingdom of God.
As Christians, all of our differences unite under the name of Jesus. The family of God is made up of men, women, children, the elderly, and every age. It's made up of people born into poverty, wealth, born into broken families, small families, or large families. It's made up of people from every different culture and background. It's made up of every political affiliation. It's made up of people who love country music, jazz music, radio hits, and old school classics. It's made up of every shade of skin tone and every type and color of hair. It's made up of so many careers and talents and passions. God's family is filled with every kind of person with a unique mind and unique thoughts tailored to their worldview and experiences. This is a marvelous and beautiful reality! And yet even in our differences, we are bound and united by the saving power of the gospel. When we cherish that unity above all, we can learn to lovingly disagree in a way that ultimately seeks to glorify God and serve the good of another in light of that truth.