Grace in Disagreements

graceBut respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, but answer in a gentle way and with respect. Keep a clear conscience so that those who speak evil of your good life in Christ will be made ashamed. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Ponder It.

  • When have you experienced unhealthy disagreement?
  • When have you experienced healthy disagreement?
  • Would you identify yourself as an avid confronter, avoiding confronter, or assessing confronter?

Receive It. Disagreements usually include some kind of rebuttal, which involves an argument with proof. Perhaps a television courtroom scene comes to mind. Rebuttals can be driven by anger or they can be dry and boring, but when a rebuttal is God-driven, it will be driven by truth and love, because God-driven rebuttals are also God-directed. God wants us to know him. That means we need to ask questions and seek his answers. God isn’t intimidated by your questions. He wants to reveal himself to you, and it’s through your dialogue with him in search for answers that you will find and become more intimate with him. Unlike a court case, you won’t look for cold facts; there is nothing cold about God. When you’re authentically seeking God’s truth, you will most certainly find facts, but they will be through God’s warmth of mercy, grace, and love. Because God created you for relationship with him, and growing relationships are thriving with life, the proof you find will be very much alive. In our tolerance-driven world, it’s tempting to accept everyone’s beliefs, no matter how misguided or false they are, out of respect, but accepting who a person is and what she believes isn’t the same thing. Respecting what a person believes equally to the person isn’t respect at all. When you accept and respect someone, you’re invested in his or her life, which means you should, at times, ask questions and have tough discussions. That’s what you do in order to find truth with God. He’s not intimidated. Because you’re standing on his truth, as you let him lead, you don’t need to be intimidated either. Know truth. Always seek truth, and your rebuttal will be God-driven in content, approach and timing.

Live It. Gather evidence in the next 90 seconds. Write down everything you can think of that reveals life. How do you know you’re alive? How do you know the world around you is alive? Think big, and think small. The greatness of God is in the details.

Benefit of the Doubt

benefit-of-the-doubtYou don’t have to give someone the benefit of the doubt. You can be absolutely certain about a particular impression or characteristic of someone. You don’t have to overlook and ignore it. But you can still be gracious in your interactions, even in your confrontation.

I often hear people say they just can’t interact with someone because of his or her beliefs. Because of who someone voted for, what someone supports, what someone believes, or sometimes it’s even a personality trait. They simply cannot accept anything from that person because of the vast differences.

Why?

Because each of us can rest assured we’re on that “other side” for someone else. How do we want to be considered? How do we want to be treated? Would we like others to truly listen to us with some respect, even if the other person doesn’t end up changing his or her mind and agreeing with us?

Maybe it’s not so much about the agreement on the outcome as the agreement to pursue the process. We might doubt an idea without much of a cost, but how expensive is it to dismiss someone, refusing graciousness?

The Benefits of Tearing Down

37d512784031dedf5a653be28a66399dFor though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:3-6)

Do you consider “tearing down” more positive or negative? Why?

What is your confrontational style? Are you more of an avid confronter or avoiding confronter?

What would it take for you to “take every thought captive to obey Christ”?

Tearing down may seem like a bad thing. To be sure, we’ve all been torn down and apart to varying degrees. We’ve all torn down others, too. But when we’re told in Ecclesiastes that there’s a season for tearing down, that’s not the direction God intends for us. Tearing down refers to demolishing the kind of fighting that is selfish and doesn’t honor God, using weapons He never intended for us to pick up. Tearing down is what we have to do with what doesn’t fit into His ways.

Tearing down isn’t about the other person. It’s about yourself. And it’s not about negative self-talk. It’s about humility, a willingness to see as God sees. He will never demean you. He will challenge you to grow and change but never in an unloving way. It’s not in His character to do so. You can trust Him.

Tearing down includes taking the high road with humility. It’s where we often find common ground with others. When we’re humble, we are willing to look someone in the eye and respect them if for no other reason than they, like us, were created by God. If we choose to tear someone down made in God’s image (no matter what distortion we perceive they are representing), we tear down God, too. Instead, let Him discern what strongholds need to be demolished and what thoughts need to be taken captive. Only He has the insight the ability to do so.

What needs to be torn down in your life so that you can confront someone the way God intends, set aside an argument (not because of avoidance but because God is telling you to humbly set yourself aside), or abundantly forgive someone? Write what you need to tear down on a sticky note. Carry it with you throughout the day. When you’re ready, tear it in half. If you aren’t sure that you can completely demolish the idea of what you need to tear down, keep one half of the paper. When you’re ready, tear it again. Repeat the process until you are ready and willing to completely tear it apart and give it up, letting God have control of you and the situation.

Confrontation and Resolution Are Not The Same

cf6716efee4e4040d8133c8ebce5ec84I have a fairly strong personality. Sometimes, it means I get a lot done, can lead well, and help others move forward. Other times, it means I’m bossy.

It also means I’m fairly comfortable with confrontation. But for those who shy away from it, that quality in me can be scary. It’s not intended to be. If it is, I’m misusing it.

After all, it’s not confrontation that I like; it’s resolution.

People and relationships are too important to me to allow issues to go unresolved. People can’t grow without remaining sharp. We can’t grow without pruning. Being sharpened and pruned sound painful, and let’s be honest: sometimes they are. But they also help us to move forward, to not get stuck in our own comfortable way of doing things.

None of us are completely responsible for each other’s growth, yet we do have some responsibility. And not just in other’s growth but in our own. Being sharpened and pruned sound passive, but they are anything but. The growth process is active: planting, cultivating, nurturing, pruning, harvesting, preparing. And there are tools for each part of the process. Some tools are sharper than others. Some seem more effective or less desirable, but all are necessary.

Confrontation isn’t intended to just shake someone into shape and get them on the right path. It’s about a relationship of preparation and resolution, and that includes questions, doubts, disagreements, discussions, patience, reconnections, and more.

It’s worth the effort. It’s worth the humility. It’s worth the boldness.

Resolution is often not attained, but it can always be the goal. We can work toward it. It can define the process. It can be part of the foundation of our relationships. It might not always feel steady, but when it’s our goal, it provides firm footing to move forward and grow.

 

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maxresdefaultWe can stand firm without being a smart aleck. We don’t have to taunt people. We can simply state truth. We can be bold yet respectful. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

David said to [Goliath]: “You come against me with a dagger, spear, and sword, but I come against you in the name of Yahweh of Hosts, the God of Israel’s armies—you have defied Him.” (1 Samuel 17:45)

David didn’t confront Goliath in his own wisdom, courage, and strength. He didn’t “get in his face.” He stood firmly on God’s direction and truth, then continued to follow Him.

Perhaps we think boldness means strength and courage, and it does, but not always the way we apply it. Strength and courage on our own won’t get us anywhere, or at least, it won’t get us anywhere worthy of staying, anywhere longstanding. The best strength and courage comes through humility. When we are bold with our humility, we are as bold standing up as stepping back, as bold in our discerned silence as in our declarations and confrontations.

Speak (and be silent) wisely.

We Can Disagree with Respect

tumblr_inline_mwf14khrWx1rbgndjWe can have sharp disagreements without sharp words.

I promise you it is possible.

Our preferences, convictions, and “rights” get in the way. We think we have the right to argue for truth with any approach we want. (Reality check: Ephesians 4:15) But a righteous purpose does not justify unrighteous means. We think we have the obligation to stand up for our rights; after all, everyone else gets to voice their opinions; shouldn’t we, too? Jesus wasn’t all that into rights. In fact, there aren’t a lot of rights that come along with being His follower. Sure, there are some really great eternal perks, and we definitely get support, courage, guidance, counsel, and strength in this life, too, but rights?

Confront with respect.

Disagree with respect.

Be willing to listen.

Express your viewpoint with humility and love.

You can have a firm center with soft edges. Otherwise, you’re likely not going to influence people in a way that honors God.

The Illusion of Ice

Do you ever have conversations that ignore what needs to be said?

There’s “that one topic” that no one wants to talk about, because it wreaks havoc on the family gathering, ministry meeting, or friendship. At some point, the topic came up, words were said, feelings were hurt, assumptions were made, and now it has become “that one topic.”

It’s like confidently walking or skating on ice, as if the ice is actually the ground, the foundation under your feet. It’s not. There’s water somewhere under the ice. Water that is likely moving, full of life…and dangerous. You don’t want to remember it’s there, because even the thought of it chills you to the bone. If you keep everything above the surface, no one gets hurt. Sure, someone might fall and get a bruise, there might be a slight conflict, but no one plummets into frigidity. To risk that seems like a death wish.

But it doesn’t go away. Some people won’t even inch out onto the ice, no matter how solid they think it is, because it’s not worth the risk. They’d rather stay on the shoreline and watch safely from a distance.

So, should you or shouldn’t you break through the ice?

It’s not an easy answer.

Yes, at some point, if you have an ongoing relationship with someone, you will need to break through. You’ll need to talk with someone about the topics that created a chasm, because it’s the only way to heal the chasm, but how can you do that? What happens when your brother makes a choice that you would never have made, and he knows you disapprove, so every time it (or any other conflict) comes up, he feels defensive and you feel judgmental? What happens when you do your best to expect the best from your adult child, but she repeats the same mistake over and over? Every time you even begin to talk to her about it, she shuts down and walks away. What happens when that mistake in your marriage gets brought up with any conflict even when there’s no connection whatsoever? What if no one is willing to talk about that family member who died and everyone misses but can’t push through the pain enough to remember together?

Relationships aren’t easy. Sometimes we want to stay on top of the ice because we’re scared of breaking through. Other times, we want to stay on top of the ice, because it’s the only opportunity we have to keep any kind of relationship with the person. It’s less about avoiding and more about maintaining with the hopes of restoring.

There’s no easy answer of what exactly you are supposed to say or do in your specific situation, but I know the direction that God wants us to always move toward: restoration. Sometimes we get to restore a relationship with a person, and sometimes our restoration focuses more on our relationship with God. Either way, we win. God wins. Because we honor Him through the process. We don’t try to figure it all out. We don’t try to avoid all conflict and pain. We don’t try to control all the details. Instead, we sit on the edge of our seats, ready to follow God wherever He leads us. We have our skates nearby. We also have a sledgehammer in case He leads us to break through the ice. In the meantime, we might have to wait for the ice to melt so we can wade through the water and meet someone halfway across the creek.

Have conversations as often as you can…especially with God.

Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:12)