“And Abram said to Lot, Let there be no strife between me and thee…for we be brethren.”
Let me preface this post by saying this: I am not against doctrinal distinctives, civil debate, or gracious disagreement. All of that is a part of our endeavor to have Biblical understanding, doctrine, and practice.
In “evangelical” Christianity it is common practice to create a preconceived, stereotypical image of those we disagree with based solely on our perception of what they believe. We then begin to attack that image, often with vicious attitudes and unkind words.
Take any doctrinal (or for that matter, political) debate you want to have, and this will be true. For some it’s the Bible version issue. For some it’s Calvinism. Still others disagree over music styles, standards of behavior, or outreach methods. Most of us would probably agree that there is room for a range of views for many topics while remaining within the framework of Scripture.
The problem is when we attribute motives, ideas, attitudes, or even words to the person we disagree with that are unsubstantiated or extra-contextual. We assume the worst. Whenever I see this, it has the appearance of an attempt to discredit a person by portraying him as the extreme example of his viewpoint in order to make our “side” look right. Rather than take the time and make the effort to discerningly evaluate the viewpoint, we take the easier route of attacking some perceived “bogeyman”. Forget mutual understanding of what the person actually believes or who they are, I’ve got my mind made up – don’t confuse me with the facts.
I have the, what I consider extraordinary, privilege to have friends that are on opposing sides of some of the debates mentioned above. In some of these, the two sides are not far apart, yet they are unable to see that, because they are blinded to reality by their perception. Sadly, for some, perception has now become reality.
I will strive to have a kind tone even in disagreement.
I will attempt to comprehend (as much as possible) the REALITY of other’s views, as opposed to my perception of them.
I will express my disagreement on the basis of principles rather than personalities.
I will seek civil disagreement where a common understanding is not possible.
I will endeavor to “remember my manners” in all debate and discussion.
Lofty goals? No doubt. Unrealistic? Maybe. Proper? Without question.
“Behold how good and how pleasant it is
for brethren to dwell together in unity.”