By Matt Olson
Thankful for the Disagreements
With the arrival of Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, I imagine the disagreements around the dinner table in many homes. As the pleasing aroma of turkey and dressing rises, so will the stench of hostile dialogue. Passionate monologues of preferences will flood the rooms of certain houses, while awkward silence will fill the rooms of others. Exhausted with frustration, you may exclaim, “I cannot handle this anymore!”
Conflict is all around us. In the public arena, people are involved in confrontations every single day. As I am writing this sentence, a news broadcaster is discussing the controversy over kneeling during the national anthem. Just last night, a few friends and I engaged in a zealous, yet civil discourse on how we should treat refugees entering the United States of America. Although topics may be wide-ranging, the art of debate is shared from political activists and Hollywood elites to college professors and blue-collar workers. If you have been a member of a local church for any length of time, then you well understand the weeds of evil speech that grow from the gardens of discord. In fact, many churches trace their history based on markers of internal conflict.
Selfishness, silliness, and sin contribute to the majority of unnecessary and hurtful fights. Society has moved from the desire to learn by collaboration to attacking one another as long is it means victory. At some level, differences of opinions have and can lead to oppression and violence. However, moments exist when a division of ideas can be healthy. In fact, certain moments actually benefit us by forcing us to mature. As a pastor, father, student, and Christian, I am learning to be thankful for times that others do not agree with me. Please understand that I do not like these occasions, but I am learning to be grateful for the process.
Disagreements promote an opportunity for Humility.
Conflict can shine a light on the pride in my own life. Paul encouraged the church, “Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)
We should unashamedly stand for certain beliefs. For example, I am pro-life. I have the opportunity to serve on the board of Hope Clinic, a pregnancy clinic in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. We are fighting for the lives of parents and children everyday. However, I also realize that many do not have the same mindset. Love is the best way to reach others who may disagree with my views on abortion. If we are willing to listen to the views of another, we might have an opportunity to learn from their heart. But only when we care to learn from their heart, will they be willing to change their mind.
Disagreements promote an opportunity for Holiness.
I must be reminded that God is the standard of perfection. The Psalmist declared, “As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven…” (Psalm 18:30) In the snare of proving myself right, I am often tempted to act as sovereign above the Sovereign One. How foolish!
I am thankful for some occasions when my opinions were not readily accepted. Though discouraging, the pushback eventually became a source of deeper dependence on God. Someone standing against you may actually be an act of His grace in your life. A desire for holiness is fostered as we acknowledge our own limitations. Maturity in one’s character is strengthened not in the absence of conflict, but in the resolution of conflict.
Why does it matter how we handle the disagreements in our life? The greatest conflict in me was how a sinful wretched creature could be at peace with a holy God. The resolution is found in 2 Corinthians 5:21. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” At one time, I was in rebellion against God and destined for Hell. In Christ, I am now a new creation destined for Heaven. When I consider what Christ has done for me, I am less focused on trying to win an argument with a person and more concerned with trying to win their heart for Jesus.
So, as you prepare for upcoming arguments, take a moment right now. Breathe. Remember that part of the grace that God has given you is your family, your local church, and your nation. We do not have to look very far to find fault with any of them. And yet, as we look at Jesus Christ, may we discover a sense of gratitude even in the disagreements.
Matt Olsen is the Senior Pastor at FBC Sharon in Laurel, MS, graduated in 2008 from William Carey, graduated in 2012 from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.