I have three wonderful teenage children, very intelligent & sometimes opinionated. And it’s not uncommon to have some very interesting & heated discussions at dinner time about all kinds of topics including politics, musical taste, movie preferences, Hollywood, current events, government policies, theological questions, historical events, recipes & a plethora of random topics. In addition to our wonderful kids, my husband & I have our own perspectives & opinions. So our dinner conversations can be both diverse & intense.
As I think about these conversations, it’s important to consider not only what is being said, but also the tone & context for these interactions. If we are going to maintain close relationships, disagreements are inevitable. Here are some helpful thoughts related to disagreements:
Seek to understand more than being understood
A sincere apology is helpful when there’s misunderstanding
If you’re trying to “win” an argument, appreciate that someone will lose & maybe that’s not a good goal
Respect is essential for constructive disagreement
I’m deeply in love with Jesus, full stop. There are times, however, that I’m not so whippy on some of the things Jesus says & does. This used to rankle me, until I started thinking about Peter. One day in my prayer time, the Holy Spirit walked me through the various times & ways that Peter disagreed with Jesus:
At the very beginning when he told Jesus to leave him because he was a sinful man (Luke 5:8, after Jesus used Peter’s boat to preach a sermon to a crowd along the lakeshore).
A little later, even though Peter walked on the water to Jesus in Matt 14:30-31, Jesus reprimanded Peter for his doubt from watching the winds & waves & sinking into the water.
In Matt 16:22, Peter rebukes Jesus for talking about His upcoming death. This seems pretty audacious to me, considering that Peter had just declared that Jesus was the Christ / Messiah.
Peter again argues with Jesus on the whole betrayal thing at the last supper in Matt 26:33-35.
Peter disagrees with God with the heavenly vision in Acts 10:11-19 about eating unclean animals & preaching Jesus to the Gentiles.
Seems to me that it doesn’t make Jesus bite His nails when we disagree with Him, but let’s be abundantly clear that no matter what our opinion may be, Jesus has the final say, full stop. So let’s keep loving Jesus, even when we disagree with Him, from time to time 🙂
Fighting is an interesting concept that gets practiced in many different ways:
the guy who flips me off because I cut in front of his car
fighting in Afghan, Iraq, Libya & other areas
fighting with our spouse over little things portending a bigger issue
fighting with a friend over a misunderstanding or something that is wrong
There are lots of ways of fighting, some of which are better than others. When I was first married, Reece & I would have some normal disagreement, but my way of handling the conflict was to just shut down & disengage (aka – silent treatment). Reece didn’t really put up with that technique, saying that there was nothing constructive accomplished w my silence – it didn’t help resolve the conflict, make any progress toward a common goal or do anything constructive. Quickly, I realized that he was right. Since then, Reece & I can definately have some fights & heated conversations, but we don’t clam up & get silent. We also don’t take shots at each other’s person – we may not like the other’s behavior, but we don’t attack each directly. Consequently, while we’ve had some pretty sturdy conflicts, we also have developed some really good honesty & intimacy over the years.
I think the idea of working through a conflict with God is even more important than when we work through a conflict w our spouse. I don’t think that God is into a passive intimacy with us, where we just roll over & play dead. Think about some of the great men in the Bible: Job, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Peter, . . . . These men all had conflicts with God – good honest “fights” where they disgreed with God, wrestled with Him, challenged His integrity, confronted the discrepencies in the world with God’s character & sometimes just flat out debated with God. If we genuinely want a close relationship with God, there will be times when we will disagree with Him & I don’t think this makes Him nervous. Engaging with God whether through intense love or frustration & even anger is better than indifference & passivity. There is such a thing as a “right fight”.