What if I strongly disagree with the views
of someone who professes to be a Christian?
is a fact of life. There is no family, and certainly no
church family, free of disagreements. The question should
be, "How can I strongly disagree in Christian charity?" It
is how we handle disagreements that makes all the difference.
As in a healthy family relationship, so long as we respect
the person(s) with whom we disagree, so long as we accord
them the privilege of holding their own views, we may disagree
productively. We all know that disagreements can be destructive,
especially if people who disagree aren't honest with one
another and show little or no respect for the other person(s).
When honesty and charity abound, people find that disagreement
can deepen dialogue, create new understandings, and promote
Paul in a number of his letters (epistles) compares the
church to a human body with many different parts cooperating
in the same work. Uniformity and complete agreement are
neither part of Paul's analogy nor even ideal for the welfare
of the body. We need people with different understandings
so that together, working together in love and respect,
we can grow in faith, respond to new opportunities, and
come to new understandings. Yes, Christians are expected
to come to new understandings.
is a living faith. While we cherish many traditions and
need to build on the understandings of the past, in every
age the Christian Gospel has to be reinterpreted in light
of what is going on in our world and in our lives. We face
challenges unknown to our ancestors, and we are called
to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to bear on the problems
and opportunities of our world. No
one individual at any given time knows the mind of Christ.
Together as a community,
we are led by the Holy Spirit toward knowing the mind of
Christ. Disagreements, even strong ones, are a necessary
and often productive aspect of living into the challenges
of Christian community with the intent of discovering the
mind of Christ for our own day.
famous 13th Chapter of I Corinthians is one way in which
St. Paul attempted to explain how Christians could productively
pool their differences and work through their disagreements.
In a word, we do this in love. The love he envisioned is
not "warm, fuzzy feelings" about those with whom
we share church life but genuine respect, forbearance,
kindness, and a willingness to listen to others, forgive
them, and work with them no matter how much we disagree.
Sometimes in Christian community we need to even agree
to disagree about some things so that the mission of the
church can move forward. In other words, our unity needs
to be built on something more basic and lasting than agreement;
it needs to be built on love and respect for every other
child of God.
Right Rev. Robert W. Ihloff