How to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Many times, Christians divide over doctrines and non-essential teachings instead of being united, so how can we disagree without being disagreeable?

Non-Essentials

Many times, Christians divide over doctrines and non-essential teachings instead of being united, so how can we disagree without being disagreeable? Christians have disagreements over the rapture, baptism, tribulation, speaking in tongues, and such, but they shouldn’t be divided and disagreeable to one another. We are to love one another in word and deed (1 John 3:18), not brow beat others into believing what we believe. You can win the argument but you might lose your friends. Sadly, in some cases, it turns ugly and like a war, there are ongoing, escalating exchanges that only lead to the ruin of the participants. The Apostle Paul instructed the young pastor Timothy to “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (2 Tim 2:14), so it is best to “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels” (2 Tim 2:23).

The Essentials

We can have differences of opinions on some things in the Bible like the rapture and the tribulation and such, but we must all be united in the essentials. Paul gives us the essentials of the Gospel, writing, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4). Jesus lived a sinless life, fulfilled the Law that we could not, He was crucified and buried and died, but was raised on the third day and today He sits at the right hand of the Father, governing His church. To have anything less than these essential doctrines means it’s not really the gospel. If someone questions Jesus’ divinity (as God), then they are teaching/believing error. They are entitled to their own opinion about Jesus, but they’re not entitled to their own truth (John 14:6). We must hold fast to the essential doctrines and fight tooth and nail to uphold their teaching. If we disagree with these truths, then it is we who are wrong, not the Bible or other people. Truth divides; it divides the sheep from the goats.

The Plain and the Cloudy

I often get asked, “Do our pets go to heaven?” We don’t know if pets will go to heaven based upon Scripture (I hope they do!), so I say, “I really don’t know…just make sure you get there yourself.” Some believers become very upset when told we don’t know if pets go to heaven. Frequently they start proof-texting with certain Bible verses (Jesus on the White Horse), but these Bible verses are taken out of context. If we take a text out of context, it creates a pretext, and likely a false one! Speculation is a slippery slope in determining what the Bible teaches. Thankfully, the main things are the plain things. The cloudy things in Scripture are usually non-essentials, and it’s best to avoid such debates. It does no one any good.

Being Agreeable

We should extend grace to others who don’t believe the very same things we do. Only in the essentials can we and must we contend for the faith once and originally delivered (Jude 1:3). All of these other non-essentials beliefs in the Bible should not be our focus anyway. We are to focus on serving and sharing Christ (Matt 25:35-36; 28:18-20) as we seek to glorify God. We can disagree and still not be disagreeable. We can show kindness and gentleness in our responses like, “I see what you believe. I know I don’t have all the answers yet and I’ve been wrong before, but thank God, we don’t have to guess on the main things in message of the gospel (John 3:16). That’s crystal clear.”

Further Counsel

The Apostle Paul wants the church to “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” Col 2:8-9). There is good reason not to debate over some issues, especially the way we talk (or shout?) to one another, and all over something God has not prioritized for us, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col 2:16-17).  The shadow is not the same thing as the reality.  I’d rather get hit by the shadow of a bus than the bus itself!  We must extend grace in areas we disagree.

Conclusion

It is unavoidable; we’re going to have disagreements with others over what we and they believe in the Bible. Just make sure this disagreement is not about the essentials, for they are crucial to our understanding of grace (Mark 1:15; John 3:16; 1 Cor 15:1-4). We must all fully agree on Jesus’ divinity, His sinless-ness, His being born of a virgin, His substitutionary death on the cross, and on His resurrection. There is no wiggle room for these doctrines (Acts 16:30-31). We must hold fast to these and release the tight grip on the other non-essentials like baptism, foods, day of worship, and such other non-essentials. The most important question here is, are you saved? Have you repented and believed the gospel (Mark 1:15)? Have you put your trust in Jesus Christ as your only way to be saved (Acts 4:12)? If not, do so today (2 Cor 6:2). Tomorrow may be too late (Heb 9:27) or Jesus may return today, so I pray you will not mourn His appearance on that Day by rejecting Jesus Christ today (Rev 1:7).

Here is some related reading for you: How to Deal With Conflict in the Church

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.





Previous post:

Next post: