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How Should Christians Disagree?

Strategy on Disagreement

I want to address how we, as Christians, should disagree. Now, of course, nobody wants to disagree. Everybody wants to get along all the time. We all want to live in peace and harmony, and joy. But in a fallen world, that doesn’t happen very often. In a fallen world, it’s more common that we disagree. And so, in a world where we’re going to have to disagree, I want to address how we should disagree when it becomes necessary.

This is a massive topic.

I spend most of my life and most of my ministry on this issue of how to disagree. The reason that’s the case is because when you live with people, when you go to church with people, when you work with people, you’re going to put two different kinds of people or three or hundreds of different kinds of people together with folks who disagree with them. Anyone who is in ministry knows for a fact that you could spend every day of your ministry all day long for the rest of your life just working on this topic. It’s a huge topic in life.

It’s actually a huge topic in the Bible. The Bible reveals a lot of information about how to think through this issue of disagreement. I’m not going to try to address everything. I just want to focus in on one thing, and that is a very clear strategy for dealing with disagreement. This could be a disagreement with your spouse, it could be a disagreement with your kids, with your brother, your sister, with your friend at church, with your pastor, or it could be a disagreement with anybody. And it’s a very clear strategy that will help regardless of the issue and regardless of the context.

Principles Vs. Preferences

I want to show you today how to disagree with murder. Now, it’s not what you think. What I mean when I say I want to teach you how to disagree, using murder is not what people mean when they get mad enough to kill. I mean, in James 4:1-2 this is what God says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”

Now, this is a passage about disagreements based on preference. It’s not a passage about disagreements based on principle. Sometimes, we have disagreements based on principle, and that is where it matters ultimately, and there’s no wiggle room.

Does the Bible have errors in it? Is God one and three? Is Jesus the only path to salvation?

There are plenty of other principled issues, but in a principled disagreement, you have no option. But to contend for the principle, you have to stand there and say clearly, what the Bible says, what the issue is that’s at stake. You have to do that graciously, kindly, winsomely, and lovingly. But you don’t have any wiggle room to back away from the principle. You can’t say, well, here at this church, we’re just going to believe that there are a couple of ways to salvation or the Bible’s full of errors. And if you don’t think that, that’s fine. We can’t do that. There are going to be some areas of principle where we just have to say this is the way it is.

Most of our disagreements are not about principles. Most of our disagreements are about preferences. Most of our disagreements are about me wanting it one way, and you wanting it another way. The problem with that is people like you and people like me are really, really good at graduating our preferences into principles. We’re really good at saying that the way I like to preach a sermon is the way to preach a sermon. We’re really good about saying the way I want to correct our children is the only way to correct our children. We’re good about saying the kind of music that I like and that I believe honors God is the only kind of music that honors God. We’re just so good at graduating our preferences into principles, and most of the time, that’s not what is happening.

Killing Your Preferences

When I say you need to deal with conflict with murder, you need to deal with disagreement with murder. I mean, you need to murder your preferences. You need to kill it. You need to put your desires to death. This is what James is talking about. In James 4, he says the reason you’re quarreling, the reason you’re fighting, is that your passions are at war within you, you desire, and you don’t have, so you murder. You want something so badly that you are willing to get in a fight to get it or to get in a fight if you don’t get it.

James calls it murder. He’s been listening to Jesus. Jesus, who says you’re guilty of murder when you’re just angry with your brother, that’s what James is saying. Here’s the deal, a murder is going to happen. In any disagreement that you have, you’re going to use your passions to spiritually murder your brother, your sister, your mom, your dad, your friend, your boss. You’re going to murder them by insisting on your way over their way, or the murder will be of your own preferences. The murder will be of you putting your desires to death and letting the other person have their way.

This might seem impossible. It is really hard. But let me encourage you. If you put your preference to death, you won’t die. There is no medical examiner who’s ever walked out of an autopsy and said that the cause of death was that person didn’t get their way. It might feel like it in the conflict with your wife or the conflict with your husband, or the conflict with your brother. It might feel like if you don’t have your way, you’re just going to die. But you won’t die. Actually, what is killing you is your preference. What is killing you is your murderous thought that this has to be your way or no way. What you need to do is let it go. You need to let go of your preference.

It’s hard at first, but it gets easier. It gets easier because Jesus gives you the grace to do this. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, and he died on the cross, and he rose from the grave to set us free from our sinful self-obsession. From the belief that it must be our way or no way. And in fact, a little bit earlier in James, he gives this incredible promise. In James 1:25, he says, “The one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

This thing that seems so impossible when you think about doing it. The Bible promises that if you will trust the Lord and let go of your preferences, let go of your passions, let go of your desire to have it your way. If you will murder your desires. Though it seems impossible, you will be blessed when it comes time to do it. That is a promise that Jesus is going to help you do this. All of us have disagreements. That’s because all of us have preferences. And so one really, really good strategy to deal with disagreement is with murder.