The political climate in America has not cooled yet, despite the 2016 election being a story of the past. Still today, with foreign policy, trade, and bi-partisan values in the balance, there is still plenty to argue about. It seems Christians are more comfortable than ever joining the fight…and bringing the fight into the church.
It’s not just politics and the conservative/liberal agenda that has the church talking; it’s also the age-old question of how to be a good Christian. This is a question that the church was debating when Jesus walked the earth, and that is still a hot topic today.
What is okay and not okay to do on the Sabbath?
Who is allowed to preach, sing, teach, and lead in the church?
What are we allowed to eat–at home and at church?
Should Ellen White’s writings be elevated as scripture in our classrooms and from the pulpit?
How should we nominate leaders?
Who can baptize, and who should be baptized?
What is adornment really?
Home church, church debt, tithing, stewardship, community service, etc., etc.
These are only just a few things that I hear in churches and online communities on a daily basis, and these debates bring out the ugliness that we try our best to hide. So, how do we discuss, and not debate?
Let Us Reason Together
Would the very God that says in Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together” also be okay with our after-church debates, our online diatribes, and fake news-sharing? What would God say about our hatefully commenting on a friend’s social media post, even though we haven’t shared a laugh or civil conversation with them in weeks? What about the posts of people we’ve never met? What would God say about the division and dissension that occurs daily and weekly in His churches? Let us reason together? The church has degraded itself from a pulpit to a soapbox. Do I mean “the church”? Oh, but I do.
The people who make up the church are the church.
We should be able to talk, to discuss, to share, and to love. We are God’s people after all, and He is Love.
Even if you know someone and have for many years, when you find out they have a certain ideology, it may seem like you don’t know them at all. When you have a disagreement, start at square one. It’s as if you have nothing in common. What do you have in common? This is where you start your discussion.
- Find the common ground. Where do you agree? This is important to maintain a discussion instead of a debate or argument.
- Keep an open mind. You may not agree, but your friend believes their viewpoint is the best. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t bother discussing it!
- Listen before responding. Do not retort or rebut. Listen, and respond to the points offered, and then offer your own.
- Agree to disagree. If you cannot agree after discussion, simply agree to disagree. Hurt feelings will not change anyone’s mind, and may hurt your cause in the end. Offer resources for your friend to read, and accept anything they recommend. This is part of keeping an open mind.
- Know when to quit. Ideally you’ll stop a discussion before it becomes heated and ends in hurt feelings and division. Some discussions are not appropriate for all spaces and occasions. The Sabbath School is not a place to have a heated discussion about sanctuary decor and it’s not a place to argue about nominating committee. If a discussion begins to look like a debate or argument, it may be time to agree to disagree, and move on for the time being. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost. It means you’ve both won.