Christ Followers in Contentious Times
Four biblical responses to division and disagreements
From mask wearing to the upcoming presidential election and beyond, it seems there is no shortage of opinions these days.
In the midst of the pandemic, emotions are running high. It may be more tempting than usual to lash out at those with whom we disagree. Yet Scripture clearly teaches us to treat others with kindness, including those who don’t share our views.
If 2020 has exposed anything in our nation, it is our fallen human nature. Our inclination is to push back angrily against offenses. But the Bible calls for us to respond as Christ would — with a nature entirely unlike our own.
During this season of navigating conversations, relationships and differences, we have to ask ourselves this: Are we responding in a way that is consistent with human nature, or are we following the way of Christ?
No matter the issue, the Bible offers guidance for engagement. Here are four things Scripture teaches about how to respond to those with whom we disagree:
1. Be gentle and considerate. Paul told the Philippians, “Let your gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5, emphasis added). The Message says it this way: “Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.”
You don’t have to agree with everyone, but you should always care more about winning people to Christ than winning arguments.
Particularly in the age of social media, people often react and respond abruptly, with no filter on what they say. It is easier to treat people with less human decency when there is a screen between us. Nevertheless, we must diligently seek to show gentleness to all through every word we speak and type.
In the heat of an argument, making a point can seem more important than making peace.
2. Be slow to speak, react or argue. This principle from James 1:19 has never been more relevant: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
In today’s culture, we’re often quick to shout down, judge and critique people with whom we disagree. We’re eager to be heard rather than listen.
We need the Spirit’s guidance to know not only what to say, but also when to refrain from saying anything at all. Taking time to pay attention, ponder, and pray rather than blurting out an angry, impatient response is a good starting place.
3. Seek peace. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
And Hebrews 12:14 says this: “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord.”
In the heat of an argument, making a point can seem more important than making peace. But Scripture teaches us to be peacemakers. We need to make sure we’re prioritizing God’s Word over getting in the next word.
4. Follow the Golden Rule. Matthew 7:12 says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
When we stop to consider the thoughts and feelings of others, it’s easier to see people for who they are — human beings in need of God’s grace. In a season when we often struggle to understand one another, the Golden Rule reminds us we have more in common than we often realize.
Whether it’s a brief dispute with someone in a grocery store checkout line or an argument with a family member, our answer can deepen the division or point people to Christ.
Remember that Jesus willingly put aside His comfort to prioritize others. Far too quickly and too often, we allow our human nature to take the lead. But to live in love during this divisive time, we must follow the way of Christ.