Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Agreeing to Disagree

Two rams fighting by Hendrik Hondius Holland 1610
 There are times in relationships, families and in the church where we just have to agree to disagree on some issues especially those that do not relate to salvation.  For example, I remember being at a Christian conference in Orlando, FL where Dr. R.C. Sproul presented his case for infant baptism from a Reformed perspective.  At the same time, he had invited his dear friend Dr. John MacArthur to make his presentation on believer's baptism.  Both of them made excellent arguments for their position.  They parted company from this conference as friends neither of them having changed the other person's point of view on the matter.  However, there are other issues on which the church can stand or fall such as the means of salvation.  Obviously, Martin Luther took an important stand which led to the break in fellowship with the Roman Catholic Church.  This was not his intention, but one which the Lord used to bring much needed reformation to a faith which had been obscured by works.
     My mother used to remind me that it is often fruitless to argue with someone on an issue.  In fact, there is an old saying that goes along with this concept:  "You can't teach a pig to sing.  It only annoys the pig and frustrates you."  To put it another way, we need to avoid foolish controversies while at the same time upholding the truth of scripture.  It is a fine line requiring thought, prayer and Bible study.
     In two different letters authored by the Apostle Paul, he writes to Timothy and Titus about dealing with controversial issues.  2 Timothy 2:23-26 reads:  "Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.  And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will."  Then in Titus 3:9, we read:  "But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless."  Both of these scriptures deal with the issue of having a prolonged disagreement over something that does not bring any value or encouragement to either believer.  Instead, it drives a wedge in the relationship.  Now, this does not mean that we 
stop being friends because someone does not see eye to eye with us.  However, it does mean we may have to avoid alienating the other person by insisting that our position is the correct one.
     Unfortunately, there have been church splits over the color of carpeting in the church, whether to expand a church building, and if the pastor visits shut-ins enough.  There are probably many more that could be named, but they are all foolish controversies in light of eternity.  Having sound theological discussions about different interpretations of scripture without animosity is always productive and can help people understand one another's point of view.  However, we can rarely change another person;s mind by anything we say or do on our own.  The only One who can change some one's thinking is God.  If we believe that a person needs to reconsider their perspective, then the best thing we can do for them is pray.
     Over and over again in my posts, I encourage all of us to become students of the Word.  This is how the Lord can speak to our heart and mind as the Holy Spirit applies scripture to our lives.  We need to stand for the truth of doctrine as revealed in God's Word, but we must avoid foolish controversies that do little to encourage one another.  Let us strive to keep the bond of peace and to love one another respecting differences of opinion.  Selah!

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