Fighting Fair by Pete Wilson
There’s no doubt in my mind that one of the most significant things we’re missing in the Christian community is the ability to “agree to disagree.” If we can’t civilly disagree within our own Christian family, how in the world will we ever have much of an impact in the world? It just absolutely breaks my heart to see how far we have to go regarding this topic. There’s a lot of hot button topics out there these days. Some of them really matter while some of them are just, in my opinion, mere distractions.
At the end of the day I’m still more interested in building a bridge than building a case so I want to learn how to have civil conversations with my fellow Christians on matters that we disagree on.
Alastair Bryan Sterne put together some great thoughts in an article in Relevant Magazine entitled “Why Can’t Christians Play Nice.”
Here’s a part of the article…
Our convictions can lead to hot tempers infused with aggressive and careless words—but all in the name of righteous indignation, right? Lutheran scholar Martin Marty has observed that people who are good at being civil often lack strong convictions, and people who have strong convictions often lack civility. We face a dilemma: falling into either category compromises truth. You can compromise truth for the sake of being civil, or you can compromise truth by your lack of civility—by being right in all the wrong ways. I’ve seen and held both postures and neither are admirable or Christ-like.
In his book Uncommon Decency, Richard Mouw suggests that the real challenge is to come up with a convicted civility. Jesus demonstrates such a posture time and time again.
Or does He? Isn’t He the one who flips over tables because of His convictions? Yes. Isn’t He the one who resorts to calling those He disagrees with a “brood of vipers”? Again, yes. Yet I would suggest that this is not normative behavior for Jesus, nor is it prescriptive behavior for us. In the gospels, Jesus more often than not responds to those He disagrees with in grace, tact and truth. In his epistle, St. James writes “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-21). Jesus is the only person whose anger truly can produce the righteousness of God, while generally our anger is compromised because of our brokenness and finitude.
Mouw suggests a basic rule of thumb for the posture of civility: “Concentrate on your own sinfulness and on the other person’s humanness.” This posture is cruciform. The cross brings us to an awareness of our own corruption, rebellion, brokenness and misplaced convictions. It knocks us off any pedestals we might want to prop ourselves up on and we fall onto level ground at the foot of the cross. The cross is radically inclusive, all are welcome and nobody is so foregone as to have excluded themselves from the offer of God’s saving love. The cross also tells us of our immeasurable worth to God. It is because of love that Jesus was willing to sacrifice Himself for us all. The cross is the extent to which God is willing to show us that His love has no bounds.
Convicted civility is birthed when we focus on the humiliation of the cross for ourselves and the exaltation of the cross for others. It takes root in us when we focus on what the cross tells us about our brokenness, and the value of the person sitting across from us. Christ on the cross is where we must always begin when engaging other people.
Dang! Read those words again… “Christ on the cross is where we must always begin when engaging other people.”
Can you imagine a few relationships that may be transformed if you started there today?