Brady: Sometimes we disagree, and that is OK

Published 9:59 pm Monday, October 30, 2017

Whether it’s in marriage, business, sports, school, church, politics, world affairs or personal relationships, every life situation has disagreements. And today these disagreements seem to be magnified in our country and world, especially, in politics, patriotism and perceived human rights. The crucial thing for the “common good” is how we handle our disagreements.

Since the situation in our country and world is so grave, and on edge, I’d like to offer a few suggestions that hopefully will point toward reconciliation, which is the critical need in our time. The following are a few possibilities for dealing with our disagreements.

First, we can remember the importance of prayer. Writing in one of his books, Bishop Emerson Colaw wrote, “Modern science and industry have done a great deal to overcome barriers of time and distance, but many people still face each other across formidable obstacles of race and religion, of interest and education, of ideas and ideals. Unable to communicate and cooperate because of such obstacles, persons often find themselves unwillingly involved in incidents of hatred and bloodshed. How different the situation is when men and women are sincerely praying for one another!”

Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). The truth is, we don’t have to be together on every issue, but we can be together in prayer. Especially, we can be together if we are praying for God’s glory in the situation. We can remember the importance of prayer.

Second, we can seek to understand the other’s point of view. There can be no reconciliation if we do not seek to understand the other’s point of view. And this understanding will always begin with listening. As Americans or human beings, we will never agree on everything. We will not agree on numerous major issues, and that’s okay. But in moments of tension-filled disagreement, rather than depending on groundless reports or divisive rhetoric or violence, we can seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and tolerance and an openness to listening and learning from one another.

In being open to another person’s point of view, Chuck Swindoll says that there are three necessary qualities that don’t come easily: honesty, objectivity and humility. And none of that comes naturally. It comes as by-products of the Spirit-filled life. Honesty, objectivity and humility-we need to understand the other’s point of view.

Third, we can disagree without being disagreeable. Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, urged all Methodists to have a “catholic” or universal spirit toward one another. Despite differences of opinion, we are to listen to one another and treat each other with respect and patience and kindness. This is what our best known Methodist slogan is all about: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”

It is at this point that Samuel  Johnson gives us one of the most liberating sentences he ever wrote: “Kindness is in our power, fondness is not.” Kindness or charity is not felt, but willed. Kindness or charity is not passion or affection or friendship, but an attitude of unshakable and unwavering good will to others, whether we like them or not. We can disagree, but we do not have to be disagreeable.

Fourth, we can look carefully for a way of compromise. Some people look at compromise as a weak and cowardly thing. They mistakenly think that it has something to do with a lack of backbone. To be sure, there is a time to hold the line. We should never compromise biblical truth, principles or convictions. But simply to be unbending is another thing altogether and usually gets nowhere.

The way to compromise might be seen in this story. A woman was engaged in her daily devotional. She prayed earnestly for a better world; making a list of things she would do to help bring it about. Then she signed her name to it and symbolically offered it up to God. But this is the response she heard. “No thank you. Take another sheet of blank paper, sign your name at the bottom of the paper, and I will fill it in.” Therein lies the possibility of compromise-when we seek God’s will and not our own. At any rate, compromise is a good way to deal with disagreements.

Finally, we can trust that God can use everything, even our disagreements, for his purposes! In the narthex of the Cathedral of Belmont Abby near Charlotte, North Carolina, there is a baptismal font mounted on a big rock.

The inscription reads: “From this stone, on which person’s were sold into slavery, they now are baptized into freedom.”

As my friend, Bishop Bevel Jones put it, “Only God can do that.” God can transform any dead-end situation into a powerful force for good.

Hal Brady operates Hal Brady Ministries in Decatur with the stated goal of presenting the good news of Jesus and offering encouragement in positive ways.