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Scenario:

Christian A meets Christian B for lunch. Small talk ensues, with the discussion ranging from Lebron’s Batman mask to being persuaded by their wives to get a minivan after the second kid. Both are big into hip hop, so the discussion turns toward music. Both A and B discuss the most recent releases and what gets the most spins in the non-minivan. Christian B then comments on Lecrae, stating that he wasn’t sure if he could get down with his recent philosophy and decision to collaborate with “secular” artists. Christian A asks what he means by that, but as B begins to articulate his point, he gets an important call from work and has to cut lunch short. Christian A uneasily says goodbye to B and stays to finish his lunch. While still in the restaurant, A accesses his Twitter app, and tweets:

Christians can be such Pharisees. The Church needs to get out of the box to reach the lost instead of staying in their comfort zones. #SecularVsSacred

Hours later, Christian B plops down on the couch after work. He scrolls through his Twitter feed and finds A’s tweet from earlier in the day. Upset, he updates his Facebook status:

That moment when being a real Christian means you’re a Pharisee. #NeedANewCircle

A Crippling Effect

This scenario is all too familiar in the 2014 makeup of interpersonal relationships. [pullquote]The social media phenomenon has had a crippling effect on common human interaction.[/pullquote] Many times, this dynamic creates passivity in face-to-face conversation and uber-bold cyber personalities. Inner thoughts and emotions are revealed via an Internet profile.

The “like” feature capitalizes on a culture saturated with affirmation-junkies and narcissistic neediness. Countless passive-aggressive barbs are tossed over an online landscape while two individuals in a Starbucks don’t have the guts to share their opinion of each other’s viewpoints.

As sojourners in this fallen world, the church has fallen prey to some of this. Disagreement is part of the human experience. As Ruth Bell Graham, wife of world-renowned evangelist Billy Graham, once said: “If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.”

However, our community seems to carry an unrealistic expectation based on an unhealthy interpretation of Acts 2:44. This blissful perspective of the church in Acts having “all things in common” can lead to an unbalanced approach to disagreement. Some pastors have used this as leverage to control members with an authoritarian leadership model. Some Christian media outlets have done so in disallowing opportunity for topics to be viewed alongside opposing views. Rarely do we see well-respected leaders spend time engaging in charitable public debate on Scriptural differences.

Face to Face?

Whether intentionally or passively, we impose a non-biblical standard of walking in agreement as a qualification for genuine relationships. Social media then allows us the avenue to share how we really feel, without needing to face disapproval from a real person in a tense moment. Lost beneath JPEG images and letter characters, communication elements of tone, facial expression and touch are not factors.

How convenient this is for our fast food generation! I don’t have to deal with awkward moments of silence or clumsily changing subjects when there is disagreement? I can affirm when I agree, and simply not respond or defriend/unfollow when it gets too dicey? I can use their posts to make snap judgments instead of asking questions and spending extra time getting to know the heart behind their passions? Where do I sign up?

By no means am I saying that this is only a this-generation problem; the church has historically handled contention and disagreement poorly. The key difference is that they dealt with it in the past—face to face or in public forums. There was no veiled messaging and indirect jabs thrown through a second hand source.

Our culture does not know how to handle conflict. Rather than the environment of spirited public debates that accompanied much of church history, disagreement of modern times is often seen as an infringement on our very worth as human beings. We are so draped in insecurity and pride that we do not have the capacity to think through critique in a way that doesn’t automatically assume the worst about the character of the critic, let alone the critique itself. [pullquote position=”right”]The church community then becomes a mechanism of same-thinking friends and eggshell conversations disguised as an application of “grace.”[/pullquote]

What to Remember in Disagreement Today

We are a family in Christ. Our interaction should be centered on grace and truth. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and Ephesians 4:25-32 give us a worthy challenge in considering how we apply this Christ-family love.

[pullquote]Our community should be defined by the fact that we fervently pray for one another.[/pullquote] That we spur one another on in advancing the gospel. That we prefer one another over ourselves. That we are considerate of one another in our attempts to be honest with each other.

We are the inheritance of Christ and he is our exceedingly great reward. Our disagreements in this fallen planet will be swallowed up in the immense glory of our Lord at his shining return. We will celebrate in unimaginable delight at the marriage supper of the Lamb as all semblance of sin is a distant memory. We will be captivated by the One who won for us an eternity with him. I share that anticipation with my family, and I hope that in light of these priorities we can find ways to spend quality time hearing each other out. I pray we can become endeared to one another instead of building fortresses on separate plots of land. I pray that we so model this love for one another that Christ’s words in John 13:35 will truly become the commentary of the lost world around us.

Finally, in our pulpits and media outlets, we must not fight to be like the mainstream news media, political system and celebrity culture, which monopolizes messages as a control mechanism. We must courageously use our influential voices in a way that causes our audiences to have a clear view of all biblically framed sides of any polarizing issue. In that, we must still allow space for disagreement in a way that does not break fellowship and/or cross lines of character assassination.

I believe this effort starts with sacrifice and the willingness to serve. When we do refer back to the church in Acts, we find the most beautiful definition of having all things common—prioritization of the glory of Christ and the joy of his salvation. Let’s aggressively contrast culture by doing away with such assumptions of hate and jealousy from our family. Let’s seek to understand, and I believe we’ll find the resulting model to truly be of eternal worth.

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