When We Disagree
By Steven Harper
As we conclude our series of studies on marriage, it is important that you do not take my word for the absolute truth on the matter. I urge all who read this, or any of my past or future articles, to hold it up against the revealed word of God to see if it wholeheartedly agrees, to ensure that it does not contradict or conflict with any other teaching within the written word, and that it uses sound reasoning to reach the conclusions that have been drawn. It has been my effort in this series (and is true of all my other writings) to do this, but I am well capable of making a mistake. If I have, or if I do, you would be my best friend to tell me where I have erred that it may be corrected.
That said, I must address the attitude of some that seems to be growing in popularity, an attitude that seems to arise most often when we disagree on the proper interpretation of God’s revealed and written word. Some, finding no answer to refutations of their positions, arguments, and/or practices, have resorted to the Rodney King-esque plea, “Can't we all just get along?” This old argument of “let’s just agree to disagree” has consistently been used by those who have no Scripture to stand on and, as a last resort, plead with the opposition, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” (Neh. 6:2) It seems those who have the least plausible defense for their erroneous positions are the most anxious for all sides to compromise the truth and “forget about our differences.” All too often, some are in a hurry to put all differences under the canopy of Romans 14 and claim the Lord would have us just sit back and keep quiet, even when some teach outright error. My first thought when I hear such pleas is, “Who's watching the sheep? The wolves have crept into the fold!”
What is most galling about this is the fact that, just a few years ago, some protested loudly that a certain preacher was teaching error on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, and lambasted those who defended him by appealing to Romans 14. They were right in doing so, but now some of those same men are using the same argument when the issue is a different preacher who is teaching a different error on the same subject. Why the apparent change of heart? Well, the first preacher was not in “their” camp and the one of late is. Isn’t it amazing how some can see the error so quickly in others, but seem to get clouded vision when they, or their friends, are just as guilty?
Talk about high hypocrisy! The Pharisees have nothing on those who act so hypocritically and shamefully. It appears some have fallen into the same pattern of hypocrisy as Peter, who willingly ate with the Gentiles while in Antioch — until “certain men” appeared (Gal. 2:11-13). When Peter’s associates from Jerusalem (where James was) came, Peter withdrew himself from the Gentiles and “played the hypocrite.” Paul “opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned,” and we should do the same to those today who are likewise guilty. Erroneous behavior is erroneous behavior, no matter who is practicing it, and if the apostle Peter can be opposed, what about men today? Are they any less culpable?
What is so despicable is the behavior of the men who, in the past, firmly stood for the truth and who now seem to be wavering now that the guilty one is in their own circle. Am I right in understanding that their actions are telling us that the exact same behavior they condemned just a decade or so ago is now acceptable? Paul certainly did not excuse the behavior of Peter by saying, “Well he's a close friend of mine and he must surely have a good reason for doing that.” NO! Absolutely not! So, what has happened to those who used to plead that we defend the word of God and not defend the man who claimed to preach it? When I was growing up, I was always told that such behavior was to be condemned, and the Bible I read back then seemed to say as much. We called such practices “preacheritis.” Well, the Bible I have still reads the same, but it seems this “disease” has spread among some and they do not recognize they are infected!
When we disagree, we should never seek to “agree to disagree,” and neither should we selectively defend truth, basing our support or opposition on who is teaching the error. Truth will never be found if that is our aim, and such only demonstrates either a lack of will to know the truth or — sadly — a dishonest heart. There is no other conclusion we may draw when such pleas are offered up instead of a willingness to dig more deeply into the written word of God to know what is true.
When we disagree, we do not have to be disagreeable, but we must seek to settle the question at hand. We must recognize the fact that when two people disagree about Bible teaching, either one is wrong or they are both wrong, because they both cannot be right! Disagreements should cause us to search all the more diligently to find the truth. Some have mistakenly taken the path of working more diligently to defend their argument — and “truth has stumbled in the street” (Isa. 59:14).
When we disagree, we should not enter into innuendo, character assassinations, slander, or any other form of spiteful treatment toward those with whom we disagree. You can almost rest assured that those who react to dissenters with these retorts have no bases for their positions. Such has been the case since the first disagreement. (Cain killed Abel because his sacrifice was acceptable and Cain’s was not. He attacked the man instead of his own problem!) When we resort to attacking those who oppose us instead of answering their arguments, we only bring shame and reproach upon the name of our Lord. He deserves much better than this!
When we disagree, we should seek to find the truth. Period. We should follow the pattern of the brethren in Antioch when there was a dissension: They appealed to the authority of God (Acts 15:2), they laid out the argument (vs. 4, 5), a defense was made (vs. 7-11), further evidence confirming the argument was presented (v. 12), a conclusion was reached (vs. 19, 24), and the answer was accepted (v. 31). Anytime we ignore even one of these steps, the dissension will continue and conflict will rage. But it does not have to be so. It should not, in fact, happen at all if we would honestly handle the word of God (2 Tim. 2:15).
When we disagree, let us be diligent to be pleasing to the Lord above all.
From: The Burns
Park BEACON, a bulletin of the Burns Park church of Christ, North Little