Points to Ponder/Agree to Disagree Agreeably
by Pastor Dennis Whitmore
When close friends or colleagues stand on opposing sides of an argument, they often will decide to “agree to disagree” and move on from there. Most issues are not worthy of sacrificing relationships, unless a compromise of principles and character is required to maintain them. However, many of our disagreements can be presented, talked over, and even held firm while keeping the core commitment of love and respect for one another. You can agree to disagree, agreeably.
Paul writes to the Philippian church:
“I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of life.” (Philippian 4:2-3)
Apparently Euodia and Syntyche had some disagreements. Maybe they “butted heads” as they worked on church and community matters together. Maybe you know someone who’s a great person in a number of ways, but is a pain to work with. (Of course, no on would describe you that way). Like these two women, we can have differences, but it is critical that we be “of the same mind in the Lord.”
One way we can be of the same mind in the Lord is to admit that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory (standard) of God” (Rom. 3:23), including us. One thing we can all agree on is that each of us is flawed and imperfect. No one has it all down; everyone can stand some improvement. A lot of times, excellent arguments are presented and points well articulated; however, when there is venom in our voices and disrespect for the other in our demeanor, we are not of one mind in the Lord. Jesus could convey a truth that stepped on toes without stomping on the person He was addressing.
Notice in Paul’s urgent plea that his companion help these differing women whom he lumps in with “the rest of my fellow workers,” he also says they ALL are listed in the Book of Life. Can it be that Mr. or Ms. Obnoxious can be a (well, you know) and yet still be Heaven bound? Could it be that annoying person you do not really like is going to be living in the heavenly mansion next door to yours? Who is the Judge?
I think God has a sense of humor. On the golden streets of the New Jerusalem “when we all get to Heaven” as the song says, He will have Democrats and Republicans side by side with adjoining doorways. Those who think only their race or denomination is “saved” will be singing in the heavenly choir with “those people”, whoever they were. One day we will see the truth as it really is and then we will understand all the things God was trying to get through to us. In some cases we will be embarrassed by what we fought over and whined about. We will even find that in some causes we were standing opposed to God Himself. In other cases, we will get a laugh at the fleeting foolishness we believed was so important.
I’m speculating of course. It is interesting to imagine how it all will come together in God’s grand plan. His word says we will understand it all eventually (I Cor. 13:12); and that every person who ever lived will know what is true whether they believe it or not. (Phil. 2:10-11) For Christians, we can turn to the promise of the Apostle John:
“(As children of God) what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2)
The verse that follows this is critical to all of us who need to be working on being “of one mind in the Lord.”
“Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (v.3, emphasis mine)
On doctrinal essentials and the foundational principles of faith we certainly must stand firm (e.g. John 14:6); but let’s not be so wise in our own opinion that we instigate divisions over form without regard to the substance.
We can purify ourselves as we engage each other’s differing and imperfect perceptions. We can also serve the Lord by lifting Him up higher than the status of our opinions. I have found that some of my critics have been my greatest teachers. If I can stand to listen to the opposing argument, I find something I can learn. I needed to look at a matter from that view; I need to examine my own view again. It is a purifying and strengthening process. But if we can not be humble enough to agree to disagree agreeably, we might prove the point we wanted to convey while missing another one we needed to know. Do not compromise principle, but do purify character.
As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” (Proverbs 27:17 NKJV)
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Whitmore serves God at the First United Methodist Church in Laurel, MD.