Respectful Disagreement

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Anyone who pays any attention at all knows the socio-political climate has been tense lately. In the days surrounding the presidential inauguration there have been protests and controversies and celebrity statements all over the media. On social media it looked like election season again as people battled each other over who supports who. But today, this headline wins over all the others I have seen: “Man bites ear off another man during argument about Trump!” I don’t even care about politics, but I had to click that headline. The article didn’t give much more detail than that – not even who supported Trump and who opposed. Honestly, I don’t think it matters. The fact is that we have gotten crazy enough over politics that people are biting each other’s ears off! Whatever happened to reasonable disagreement? What happened to civility and respect? Have we lost our collective American minds?

I think it is high time that we stop arguing like spoiled little children who name call and bite each other and start discussing issues like adults. Regardless of your political persuasion –or even if politics isn’t your thing at all- conflict and issues can only be resolved through profitable discussion. Disagreement is inevitable, so when it happens, stay respectful. Do not name call. Do not make personal attacks. Disagreement can always be done in a kind, loving, and respectful manner. When this happens, the door is often open for genuine dialogue about real issues – and this is what has to happen. Whether it is a social issue like racial injustice or more personal issues like who’s not replacing the toilet paper roll when they finish it – problems are only resolved when the real issues are discussed.

Because of this, I want to ask all grown up Americans to stop bickering and arguing  and begin the process of healthy, respectful communication with those who hold opposing views. You can start today by offering kindness instead of cruelty and love instead of hate. With that change of perspective, go out and enter into genuine, respectful disagreements with people so that we can make this world a better place. And for heaven’s sake, don’t bite anybody!

Exercise for a Healthy Body

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I recently read that almost half of Americans say they want to lose weight, but only about half of those people are actually making any attempt to do anything about it. While the lack of follow through is disturbing, I think this desire for physical health is great because God has given us these bodies and a healthy body is a good thing! However, of far more importance than a healthy physical body is a healthy spiritual body and far more disturbing than a lack of effort at physical health is a lack of effort at spiritual health.

THE CHURCH; THE BODY OF CHRIST

Interestingly enough, God frequently uses the physical human body as a metaphor for His body – the church. While this term can be accurately used to refer to both the universal church (the entirety of believers in all times and in all places) and the local church, the majority of the New Testament emphasis on the church is referring to individual local churches. That’s because the local church is of great importance to God. It is through the local church that He plans to spread His gospel. It is through the local church that He intends to cultivate mature believers. It is through the local church that He intends to provide accountability, support and opportunities for ministry. It is, in fact, the local church that He has chosen to represent Him in a world that has rejected Him. With this tremendous responsibility in mind, the health of the local church should be of great importance to each of us who claim to be followers of Christ. Since the church is made up of people, a healthy local church is really just believers living the way God expects – and a big part of that is how we get along with each other. Just as weight loss cannot take place without working at it, a healthy church won’t just happen without some intentional effort. So, here are three spiritual exercises that will lead to a healthy church body.

PURSUE UNITY

First is unity. In order to have healthy relationships with your church family, you must make unity a priority. I don’t mean unity as in everybody being the same and I certainly don’t promote a lack of diversity. Too many churches think that the fact that they look the same, like the same things and agree on everything is unity. That’s not unity – that’s laziness. Unity is being different and even having disagreements and still being able to have mutual love and respect because of Jesus. Unity is working through differences for the greater purpose of God’s Kingdom. Unity is the deep and genuine joining together of the hearts of believers to each other through a mutual pursuit of Christ. True unity is only achieved through pursuit of Christ above all. You must stop pursuing your ideas, your desires, your comfort, your convenience and start pursuing unity through Christ!

RESOLVE TO PRACTICE HUMILITY

That type of unity requires humility, a quality that is foreign to our natural selves and is only through achievable through God’s grace. As Paul points out in Philippians 2, practical humility is basically a selfless concern for others. We reject selfishness and pride. We do not strive for our own glory or positions of power. We do not try to manipulate to get our way because we truly believe that other people are more important than us. A healthy church consists of believers that live out the creed: “others matter to me more than I matter to me.” Too many churches are filled with believers who just care about themselves. We must renounce this kind of selfishness and embrace a Christ-like humility.

RESOLVE TO PARTICIPATE IN SERVICE

The final characteristic of healthy church relationships that I would like to mention is sacrificial service. Service costs something. It costs something in terms of effort, money or time. It might also cost in reputation. It certainly costs in pride. The cost might be different for each of us, but serving others will cost something – though in the long term those costs are meaningless. After all, what is money and time and energy other than currency to be spent for the kingdom?! When that is our mindset we realize that though there is a temporal cost to serving others, there is also an eternal reward. God honors His humble servants. Additionally, there is also a very real benefit here and now. When we commit to serving and caring for others we find ourselves cared for beyond our wildest imagination.

God’s plan for His church is designed to be best for all of us. His plan is that individual believers will function as a single local community that loves and cares for each other. This won’t happen if each of us is only concerned with what we can get out of church or how our interests can be served. It is time that we stop doing lip service to the idea of a healthy church and begin exercising the principles that will actually make it true.

 

Photo Credit Dwight Burdette. Original here.