Last week an old friend, and fellow Christian, messaged me on Facebook to let me know he thought some of the Christian charismatic leaders I followed were “false teachers.”
I didn’t (and still don’t) agree with him. But that’s not the point.
There are enough blog posts, Facebook comments and even entire books dedicated to, what I’ll refer to as “Christian Disagreements.”
But so few resources on how to walk in unity and how to honor those you disagree with.
It’s like we’re experts at arguing, persuading and debating (which I confess, I do a lot of) but almost entirely ignorant on how to walk in unity.
And I think something is wrong with that.
So instead of writing my friend back right away, I took a day to think it over. I wanted to not only get my thinking right but also my heart right before I responded.
3 Ways To Respond To Christian Facebook Disagreements
As I considered the different ways I could respond I decided there were 3 main approaches:
1. Aggressive: Engage in a full blown frontal attack. I could build a case why I’m right and he’s wrong. I could open up my “Debate Toolbox” and pull out proven tools that have helped me win arguments before: identifying flawed logic, using the psychology of persuasion, pointing out scripture that supports my case and of course my favorite… powerful writing that’s concise and to the point.
2. Passive Aggressive: Completely ignore him. Come on all you Passive Agressives out there… you know what I’m talking about… “Screw you. It’s not worth my time to even reply to you.”
3. Healthy confrontation. Of course this is the right answer. It’s like the Sunday School Question.
“Ok class, what should Josh do… be mean and call his friend names?”
Cue class of primary age kids screaming in unison, “NO!”
“Should he give him the silent treatment?”
“Or should he be nice, talk to his friend in a friendly way and love Jesus?”
Thankfully I’m as smart as a 5th grader in Sunday School (at least I like to think I am) and chose #3.
And looking back, I’m happy I did.
Taking Time To Respond
One of things I did before I wrote him back was I talked with my wife about it.
We discussed the importance of being right versus the importance of unity (something I’ve had lots of “opportunity” to practice in marriage).
I felt like I had a chance to build a bridge with a brother from a different stream of Christianity. I saw a choice to either fight or walk in unity.
While I disagreed with my friend’s assertion that some of the central figures of the movement I’m part of were “false teachers” I did not want to build up a wall between us. We have enough unnecessary walls in the church.
3 Streams of Christianity
And as I was considering my response I remembered something I read from Let The River Run by Dan Scott. Below is an except:
“I had been reading William Barclay’s notes on Ephesians when I suddenly had a powerful urge to write. So I found a legal pad. I began to categorize the Christian churches according to how they worshiped under three columns: Liturgical, Evangelical, and Charismatic.
Under each of these columns, I wrote descriptive words about their historical origins: Temple, synagogue, and the prophetic tradition.
“Wow,” I thought, “all forms of Christian worship had Jewish origins! We should not have been arguing these past few centuries about the ‘pagan’ elements of liturgical worship but rather about whether it was proper to maintain Old Testament forms in a New Testament era!”
I quickly added other descriptors: awe, understanding, and experience. These were the objectives of each form of Christian worship, I decided.
On a roll now, I added: Sacrament, Bible Study, experience. These were the means by which God is met within these different expressions.
More terms followed: priest, rabbi, and prophet: these were the biblical models of ministry in the different churches.
Finally, I added the line that blew my mind and has never stopped amazing me: Father, Son and Holy Spirit: believers in each expression of Christian faith tend to prefer worship that direct them to God as they primarily view Him. The tri-unity of God is reflected in the tr-unity of His church!”
So I viewed this situation as a test. An opportunity to practice what I had learned.
You see, I agree with Dan Scott’s view on the “3 Streams of Christianity ” I think that each major stream: Liturgical, Evangelical and Charismatic all bring important contributions to Christianity. And not one is more important than the others.
And so I thought to myself, “My friend represents the Evangelical stream and I represent the Charismatic stream. So we have a great opportunity to build a bridge here.”
So I wrote him back the next day and told him I appreciated his genuine concern for my spiritual well being (I really believed it was genuine because he sent me a private message and didn’t post it on my wall).
I also shared a little about why I believe the way I do. And that while I was not interested in debating him about the charismatic movement or the leaders he mentioned, I would be happy to discuss theology and faith.
I told him I couldn’t see any fruit coming from engaging in the, “here’s why I’m right and you’re wrong” type of debates.
He would fail to “convert” me and I him.
My Friend’s Response
I was happy to read his response.
He basically said, “Neither one of us is 100% right. If we were, we’d be God and that would’t be good.”
He also said he was open to discussing theology in the future.
So why did I share that story with you?
To try and make me look good and be all like, Look at me. I’m so spiritual I don’t argue.
Believe me, I’ve had more than my fair share of arguments and I’ll probably engage in many more in the future.
But I do want to learn to walk in unity more and more.
I want to really understand that, “knowledge puffs up but love edifies.”
And I want to learn how to do it without compromising what I believe or embracing some worldly philosophy about “truth being relative.”
Truth is truth.
And there is such thing as right and wrong.
Being Right and Wrong At The Same Time
But — and please hear this — it is possible to be 100% right and be wrong at the same time. (If you’d like further clarification about that statement please either get married or ask a married couple to enlighten you).
So the real reason why I felt compelled to write this is because I think this experience and what I learned was not just meant for me. I hope some people reading this can make a choice for unity and love over “being right” all the time.
And I want to commend my “unknown” friend for making the decision to walk out and meet me on that “bridge” instead of shooting arrows at me.
Those “arrows” have plagued Christianity for far too long. So I’m excited about what God’s doing in the area of unity.
What are your thoughts about this? Feel free to leave a comment below.