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> Questions of Faith and Doubt: Explore the Church > Disagree with someone who professes to be a Christian ?
Questions of faith and doubt

What if I strongly disagree with the views of someone who professes to be a Christian?

Disagreement is a fact of life. There is no family, and certainly no church family, free of disagreements. The question should be, "How can I strongly disagree in Christian charity?" It is how we handle disagreements that makes all the difference. As in a healthy family relationship, so long as we respect the person(s) with whom we disagree, so long as we accord them the privilege of holding their own views, we may disagree productively. We all know that disagreements can be destructive, especially if people who disagree aren't honest with one another and show little or no respect for the other person(s). When honesty and charity abound, people find that disagreement can deepen dialogue, create new understandings, and promote growth.

St. Paul in a number of his letters (epistles) compares the church to a human body with many different parts cooperating in the same work. Uniformity and complete agreement are neither part of Paul's analogy nor even ideal for the welfare of the body. We need people with different understandings so that together, working together in love and respect, we can grow in faith, respond to new opportunities, and come to new understandings. Yes, Christians are expected to come to new understandings.

Ours is a living faith. While we cherish many traditions and need to build on the understandings of the past, in every age the Christian Gospel has to be reinterpreted in light of what is going on in our world and in our lives. We face challenges unknown to our ancestors, and we are called to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to bear on the problems and opportunities of our world. No one individual at any given time knows the mind of Christ. Together as a community, we are led by the Holy Spirit toward knowing the mind of Christ. Disagreements, even strong ones, are a necessary and often productive aspect of living into the challenges of Christian community with the intent of discovering the mind of Christ for our own day.

The famous 13th Chapter of I Corinthians is one way in which St. Paul attempted to explain how Christians could productively pool their differences and work through their disagreements. In a word, we do this in love. The love he envisioned is not "warm, fuzzy feelings" about those with whom we share church life but genuine respect, forbearance, kindness, and a willingness to listen to others, forgive them, and work with them no matter how much we disagree. Sometimes in Christian community we need to even agree to disagree about some things so that the mission of the church can move forward. In other words, our unity needs to be built on something more basic and lasting than agreement; it needs to be built on love and respect for every other child of God.

--The Right Rev. Robert W. Ihloff


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