Christian Universe ™
Disagreeing Without Being Disagreeable
June 14, 2009
In our understanding of scripture, we often disagree. This can be due to many factors. We must learn to agreeably disagree. Because someone else understands something a little differently does not automatically mean that the person is a false prophet or a child of the Devil!
Disagreeing Without Being Disagreeable
A sermon by Bernie Parsons
presented to the Globe church of Christ on 06/14/2009
In our lives, we encounter Christians with many differing opinions, ideas, and understandings of what the scriptures teach. This is inevitable, because of several factors, including physical age, life experiences, intelligence, emotional development, time in the church, amount of Bible study, and more.
That means that there will be many disagreements. If we disagree, does that mean that we cannot be friends, or that we cannot be in one another’s company? Does it mean that we cannot be in fellowship as Christians?
As always, the answers are found in the scriptures. Anything else would be our personal opinions, and not worth the paper on which they are written. It is important that we know and understand that we can disagree without being disagreeable. Let’s look at a couple of classic examples from the scriptures.
Paul and Peter disagreed.
Galatians 2:11: “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
12: For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
13: And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
14: But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
15: We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
16: Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
17: But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.”
Paul, in writing, criticized Peter’s behavior regarding his relationship with Gentile Christians, and how it changed when Jews were a part of the picture. Paul didn’t merely criticize Peter, but also said that his behavior was not upright and according to truth. He pointed out that the Gentile Christians were not required to live according to the Jewish laws and customs.
2 Peter 3:14: “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
15: And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
16: As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
17: Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
18: But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”
It seems that there might have been a rivalry between Paul and Peter, as we saw above. Peter, in a subtle way, took a jab at Paul by saying that he wrote things that were hard to be understood.
We also see that Paul and Barnabas disagreed.
Acts 15:30: “So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:
31: Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.
32: And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.
33: And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles.
34: Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still.
35: Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
36: And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.
37: And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
38: But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
39: And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
40: And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
41: And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.”
In both of these cases, involving Paul and Peter, and Paul and Barnabas, we need to take note of something very important. Even though there was sometimes even severe disagreement, these men still called one another “brother”. In 2 Peter 3:15, he refers to Paul as his “beloved brother Paul”. He did not call him an “erring brother”, or a “false brother”, or the enemy of Christ, or the church.
When Paul and Barnabas fell out so severely that they felt that they could not work together in the same preaching team, each did not accuse the other of being a false prophet, or of perverting the gospel, or of wrecking the church. Instead, even after the parting of ways, all continued to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We can learn from these examples. Sometimes, due to personalities or strong opinions, it may be difficult for two preachers to work closely together. However, that does not mean that only one of them is righteous, or that only one preaches the truth. Furthermore, it does not mean that preachers and teachers, or, for that matter, other church members, who disagree cannot consider one another as Christian brothers and sisters, fellow saints, and fellow workers in the service of the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 5:12: “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
13: And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
14: Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
15: See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.”
Those who devote time and resources to the work among the Christians, or to try to bring the lost to Christ, are worthy of love and respect. It takes a lot to be a Bible teacher or a gospel preacher. Long hours are spent in Bible study, in mediation and prayer, and in research. Evangelists spend long and tiring hours on the road, bear the emotional strain of working with strangers and folks of various attitudes, and are deprived of time with their families. These are personal sacrifices. We should honor them.
Matthew 9:37: “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
38: Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”
As it was in the days of Christ, even now the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Rather than trying to destroy the workers, or run them off, we need to welcome them. We who are teachers and preachers need to work with our fellow workers in this harvest.
1 Corinthians 1:10: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11: For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12: Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13: Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”
1 Corinthians 3:4: “For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
5: Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
6: I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
7: So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
8: Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
9: For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.”
1 Corinthians 3:18: “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
19: For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
20: And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
21: Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;
22: Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;
23: And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's.”
1 Corinthians 4:15: “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
16: Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.
17: For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.”
1 Corinthians 11:1: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
2: Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.”
1 Corinthians 15:1: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2: By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:9: “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10: But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
11: Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.”