It’s hard to talk with each other about personal issues we disagree on. There are good ways and bad ways to do so: a sister who is considering abortion for a child she didn’t plan on conceiving, or a friend who is supporting a parent considering ending her life through euthanasia; or a friend who has just revealed he is a practicing homosexual. We have come to the point of thinking that everyman or woman’s point of view is good for them, if not for me. The problem is that as we have become more diverse as a society it has become more unacceptable to disagree with one another on discussing moral issues. In short, it has become socially unacceptable for one person to say to another, “I think that’s wrong.” Tolerance, and therefore silence, has come to rule the day in disagreement found among friends and neighbors over moral issues. Everything has become relative according to the person and his/her situation. The rule is that we are not to discuss it. We dislike conflict and don’t know how to disagree agreeably so we say that everyone should have the right to do anything or have her own way.
But often, we who disagree have ignored God’s command to “speak the truth in love.” And the reason, apart from our fear of disapproval, is that we don’t know HOW to do so. Keeping silent or championing the new ethics of, “anything goes,” we don’t know how to disagree in the right way. Hear this….
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in everyway into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body….builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 15-16)
It takes skill and practice to learn to disagree without anger and recriminations. The first thing we have to do is examine ourselves and how we feel and speak when we strongly disagree with someone. Outrage is not a good way to speak in disagreement. However strongly we may feel about our point of view and what we believe, the focus of our attention ought to be on the good of the person with whom we disagree, …. speaking the truth in love. Taking time to digest what we have heard them say, we need to understand why they said it. Sometimes people are asking for support. Other times they are asking for approval. Still other times, they just don’t know how else to respond. Our concern can bring support to a cry for help in evaluating the situation or issue. If we react in anger or in strong opposition it may seal their point of view for good, and we end up insuring it.
Speaking the truth in love means caring about the other person and the hardship they face in being confronted by the dilemma. Asking what led them to the point of view they came to, and doing so in love, might enable them to share their misgivings about their stance. At other times, they may be filled with anger and frustration and see their stance as a mode of self-survival. Jesus spoke the truth in love and continued to love those who disagreed with him. Loving someone with whom we disagree does not mean approval for their position. It needs to be said (in love): “I don’t agree with you, but I do care about you and will be here for you if you need to talk more about it. This takes practice on our part!