Respecting Our Disagreement
There is a man who I love as dearly as any man in this world. I admire him. I respect him. I love him. Unfortunately, a sharp disagreement has come between us. While it is not a doctrinal disagreement, it is one about which we both strongly believe. He would like nothing more than for me to see it his way so that our relationship can be healed. I would like nothing more than for him to respectfully accept our disagreement so that our relationship can be healed. There is a difference!
Unfortunately these types of disagreements often separate dear friends and brothers in Christ. In our desire to be right we fail to understand that it is possible for two people to sharply disagree, but to respectfully accept their differences.
Back in the 1970’s a group of men as diverse as could possibly be decided to join together to conduct a national conference on soul winning and revival. Their planning stage for the meeting was to take place in Los Angeles. Sadly what was intended to be a conference on soul winning and revival led to the separating of friends.
When the men came together their differences became more obvious. Rather than focusing on the cause for which they had united, they focused on those differences. When the conference had ended, so had some of their friendships. Men who once preached together, separated from one another because they wanted the other to submit to what they believed. They went to their graves without healing what had once been strong friendships.
Most of these men were heroes of Dr. Hyles. He already knew their differences. Long ago he had determined not to allow these differences to put a wedge between himself and the opportunity to be influenced by them. He did not separate from them, but they separated from each other and him.
I decided to write this article hoping that my friend would read it and that it would begin the healing between us. However, I am also writing it in hopes that others could be helped. I have had men cancel meetings with me because they disagreed with something about which I feel strongly and yet we still agree on the things that brought us together in the past.
That saddens me. If I had strayed from my position on the King James Bible, Bible separation, soul winning, or doctrine it would be different. So what should we do when we disagree with a brother in order not to destroy a friendship?
1. Don’t be careless with friendships. I saw men separate from Dr. Hyles over a disagreement. He never stopped loving them. He grieved deeply. He valued the friendship and never wanted to sacrifice it at the altar of a disagreement. He remained a friend to many men who walked away from their friendship over a difference.
2. Don’t sacrifice what you could gain over disagreement. Dr. Hyles would have loved for RG Lee to leave the Southern Baptist Convention, but think of what he would have lost had he allowed that to separate their friendship. Dr. Hyles’ life was much richer because he refused to let that disagreement separate them.
Dr. Hyles would have loved for Dr. Rice to agree with him on storehouse tithing. But, he was not willing to sacrifice all the good that he could gain from Dr. Rice’s wisdom and influence over that one disagreement. I could go on and speak of Lester Roloff, Bob Jones Sr. and many others with whom he strongly disagreed on an issue, but refused to allow that disagreement to destroy what he considered to be an important friendship.
3. Value people over your own authority. Not everyone has to submit to you, my brother. Not everyone has to do what you say and believe what you believe. When you make being the authority more important than the friendship you are not showing your strength; you are showing weakness. Mrs. Gray and I have strongly disagreed over some things. Rather than letting those things come between us, we chose to respect the disagreement. That is how you spare marriages and friendships.
4. Don’t rally people to your side. If you are right, then be right, but you don’t need others to validate that. Or do you? Do you really need them to slander that person to make you feel more right? Do you really need to hurt another’s ministry to feel more right? Do you really need others to question the other’s spirituality to make you feel more right?
If Mrs. Gray and I disagree strongly over something you better not take my side against her because my loyalty to Mrs. Gray is more important than your agreement with me. My friend that is deep! Think about what I just said.
My loyalty to Mrs. Gray is more important than you validating our disagreement on my behalf at her expense.
If you attack my friend with whom I disagree in an effort to defend me you have not defended me; you have attacked me. I learned that the hard way from Dr. Hyles.
5. I Hope that you never discover all the disagreements you have with all your friends or you will have no more friends. It’s interesting how inconsistent we really are. The individual who has allowed our disagreement to harm our relationship remains friends with others with whom I know he has disagreements. However, the closer you are to someone the more obvious a disagreement becomes.
I know far more things about which Mrs. Gray and I disagree than I do with anyone else in the world because I know Mrs. Gray better. There are preachers who because of their closeness separate over a disagreement, but who at a distance remain friends with others with whom they would also disagree. That is one reason why Dr. Hyles said, “Don’t get too close to people you admire. The closer you get, the more likely you will discover your disagreements.” That my friend is deep but important.
6. Don’t look for other faults to validate your disagreement. The man who disagrees with me has scrutinized me in other areas and found “fault.” Somehow that validates his side of our disagreement. Really? Sadly he has let others criticize me for other things in defense of his position on our disagreement. That is so unwise. It is also very unChristlike.
7. Learn to separate relationships. Follow me very closely here. This could save friendships. Here are two brothers. Both are strong independent fundamental Baptists. One brother decides that he is going to leave his Independent Baptist Church and join a non-denominational church that does not use the King James Bible. They now have a disagreement. The danger is to confuse the relationship of brother to brother with the relationship of fellow church member to fellow church member.
These brothers should not allow the relationship as brothers to be damaged by the disagreement over churches. “But how do you avoid it?” you ask. You avoid it. If you value your relationship as brothers enough then you agree to respect the disagreement. Don’t pick at that scab. That is important.
8. Don’t seek concession seek reconciliation. Why is it so important for them to admit they are wrong of for you to admit you are wrong. Why don’t you both admit you disagree and move on? Oh, I know why…PRIDE! Stop it. Let me share something that is quite remarkable.
The apostle Peter and the Lord Jesus Christ had just had a disagreement. Jesus told Peter that he would deny him three times and he knew he would. Peter had just vehemently disagree because he believed he would not. Jesus knew He was right yet never insisted on Peter agreeing with Him. Just a little later, when Jesus went to pray in the garden of Gethsemane guess who Jesus took with him. Yes, Peter.
There is something amazing and sweet about that. Knowing they did not agree, Jesus still valued his relationship with Peter. Even though Peter did not admit that Christ was right our Lord invited Peter to that very important place and hour.
I do not anticipate that this article will mend the rift between the one I love and myself. In fact I fear it may make it worse. However, what I have just shared is so needed. There are lessons here that need to be taught and learned. May God help us to accept disagreement more respectfully and refuse to allow it to ruin friendships.