by Jared Musgrove
It is never “if” Christians disagree but “when”.
It’s important to lean into this as a small group leader. Lead your group to practice Christian unity before the conflict comes. Walk through how you will disagree before the disagreement happens. This is an opportunity to show the gospel to an unbelieving world, and be reminded of it all over again yourselves.
Francis Schaeffer has been so helpful to me in his approach to Christian disagreement. In The Mark of the Christian, he outlines just how Christians are to disagree in a way that honors God:
1. Have regret. Weep over the fact that there is disagreement. This is clearly not as it should be. So recognize this. Weep together if you are able that you are here. Look forward together to a day when disagreements will be no more.
2. Demonstrate visible love. “Not all differences among Christians are equal. There are some that are very minor. Others are overwhelmingly important,” writes Schaeffer. “The more serious the wrongness, the more important it is to exhibit the holiness of God… the more important it becomes that we look to the Holy Spirit to enable us to show true love to the true Christians with whom we must differ.” Spend time on your knees praying for, and perhaps even with, the one with whom you disagree. This is visible, tangible love began.
3. Practice demonstrations of love. Do whatever must be done to show love, outdoing each other in honor even in the midst of the disagreement. A way to start the conversation with practical love is to tell the person with whom you disagree how you see the Lord using them. If they are a fellow Christian, the Spirit is at work in them. Remind each other of this in the midst of the disagreement.
4. Desire to solve the problem, rather than win. Far too much of our history is a desire to win for ourselves rather than for all the brothers and sisters. Schaeffer writes, “But we should understand that what we are working for in the midst of our difference is a solution – a solution that will give God the glory, that will be true to the Bible, but will exhibit the love of God simultaneously with his holiness.”
5. Help one another remember to exhibit our oneness in Christ before the disagreement comes. It is easy to compromise and call what is wrong right, but it is just as easy to forget to exhibit our oneness in Jesus. If there is not a habit of practicing oneness in Christ, of reminding each other of gospel truth regularly, then it will feel foreign to do so when the conflict comes.