I Don’t Agree with You . . . But

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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A week or so back, our three young-adult children all happened to be under the homestead roof during a lunch hour. Every year we vacation together, and we gather for holidays, but it takes high-speed film to catch the five of us in one place from our four respective addresses in three geographic locations. Seizing this surprise encounter, we sat down to lunch, asked God to bless our food and conversation, and typically ripped into both.

The kids wrestled with each other over U.S. policy in Central America, the war in Iraq, domestic problems, Christianity in Arab states, and how Christ feels about all of the above. When they were growing up and mealtime “discussions” grew too long, the youngest would begin singing the national anthem for no good reason other than to make the rest of us shut up. It’s hard to tell a five-year old to “knock it off with the national anthem.” Now, as a 19-year-old, she just bolts. So when she pushed back her chair, her two siblings got in final shots and the discussion abruptly ended.

As parents, Bonnie and I cherish watching our children mature from attempts to slaughter each other into loving, respectful disagreement. At a fundamental level, the kids now shoot for mutual understanding, even persuasion, rather than conquest. A pastor said to me recently, “What more can you ask for? Your kids love God, love each other, and love their parents.” I’m not sure my heart could handle broken relationships among our children.

As our heavenly parent, the God in whose image we are made seems to want few things more than His children’s unity. As Jesus faced the cross and poured out his heart to the Father (John 17), he pled for the unity of believers. In our most pressure-packed moments, our deepest values surface; clearly the longing for unity came from deep in Christ’s soul. Christians underestimate the extent to which God deplores our disunity and dissension. Through the ages, dissension within the Christian church has damaged us more than any external attack.

Disagreement can be healthy, the gristmill of growth. Hegel’s famed dialectic illustrates how higher intellectual ground is the product of theses encountering antitheses. In one of his most powerful lessons of my youth, my father had no idea he was teaching. The pastor of our small Baptist church gave a sermon one Sunday on the Kingdom of God. I don’t remember a word of the sermon, but I remember my father’s warm words as he shook the pastor’s hand on the way out of church, “I hope you will preach more about this subject. I don’t agree with you, but I’m eager to learn.” To this day, probably 40 years later, when I see my pastor, we never fail to remember that uniting, empowering remark.

Disagreement is normal and healthy. But dissension violates the last wishes of our Savior, “I pray for those who will believe in me . . . that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17: 20,21)