Thursday, November 22, 2012

Arguing Over An Agreement

Romans 10:9
John 17:20-24
sisters loving each other as we should all
love each other
I'm sure we've all had the experience of arguing vehemently with someone just to discover we were both coming at the issue from the same side with only somewhat different angles. We're arguing over an agreement; we're simply so hotly involved in the discussion that we can't see the misunderstanding for what it it.
There are a lot of issues that divide the Christian Church today and I am certainly not saying they are not important differences. As I've read and interacted with both Protestants and Catholics, there is one issue though that stands out to me as one we're arguing the same side from different positions. Would any honest, devout Protestant argue that an active faith is visible through godly words and actions, producing good works? And I've examined the official Catholic teaching: Good works are the fruit of deep faith, which is what all the saints pray and strive for. (Saints here being Christians on earth hoping to one day reach heaven). But because we're arguing, we can't hear each other's position, including whether we're truly arguing over an agreement, and we can't love each other for the anger we hold against each other.
As individuals without strong authority in our individual churches, we may not have the ability to work out our differences on a Church-wide level. We can choose, however, to love other Christians individually, as an obedience to Christ's prayer. We can choose to pray for unity. We can choose to assume the best of others in any disagreement. We can choose to hold our tongues when others speak or act offensively toward us. We can choose to pray together with those whose church gets along well enough with ours to allow that mutual prayer. We can choose in situations when we're together to focus on the areas where we are in agreement rather than bickering or insisting on our own beliefs and traditions. Although we cannot work out the larger issues, we can do our small part by strengthening our faith, living it out in all our words and deeds, striving to faithfully live according to God's will.
When we get together with friends and family over a holiday, more opportunities come up to argue over real and imagined offenses. The disagreement may be real or it may be a misunderstanding. Rather than simply asserting our own perspective, it might be worthwhile to step back a moment and evaluate how we are relating to the person we disagree with. Give them the benefit of the doubt: that somehow, someway, they are actually agreeing with you, just from a very different angle. Yet even if the disagreement is very real, is this the best time to argue about it? Are your words and attitude loving and gracious even while addressing another person's wrongdoing or different position? Are you being a good Christian witness in the midst of the argument? Would it be better to focus right now on what you have in common with each other and save this serious discussion for another occasion? 

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