How Christians Should Discuss the Non-Essentials We Disagree On

To one degree or another, we’re all passionate about what we believe.  We feel as if our beliefs define us, so when someone challenges those beliefs or, at least, doesn’t agree with them, we feel like it’s an attack on us as a person.  In response, we can get a little snippy and arrogant, and forget what love requires of us in that moment.  This morning I want to prescribe a helpful way to disagree with someone about what you believe…  specifically when another Christian challenges your beliefs on the non-essentials (Christian doctrine that is not necessary to believe in order to be saved).

Predestination, Lordship salvation, the miraculous gifts, when Christ will return, how to baptize, whether the Church has replaced Israel as God’s people – these are all issues that Christians can disagree about and still, in fact, be Christians.  But often the way we disagree with each other about these issues can be unChristian.  So how can we discuss and even debate these issues without creating disunity and breaking fellowship?

First, commit to loving your brother or sister in Christ more than you love being right.

Second, if one of these issues comes up in conversation, before you get into any details, make a commitment with the other person to pursue humility and grace as you both move toward a conclusion.

Third, give the person a brief statement on what you believe about the issue and then give him some Scripture texts to read for homework.  Don’t say anything else about the issue until he’s had time to read what God has to say on the subject (what God thinks is what matters).  If someone is going to agree or disagree with a doctrine, you do not want it to be because of what you said.  This can produce a dependence on you as a source of wisdom if he agrees or it can lead to him distancing himself from you if he disagrees.  When you point him to the Word of God, if he agrees, then he’s more likely to go to the Word for answers on similar issues; if he disagrees, then at least he knows that you’re not pulling your ideas out of the air.  Plus, in giving him homework, you’re giving him more time to think.  In the heat of the moment, in these kinds of conversations, we mostly tend to be on the defensive, so giving the issue time to simmer is usually a good idea.

Fourth, ask the person if there are any Scripture texts from his side of the issue that you should read before your next conversation.

Fifth, when you have your next conversation, realize that people often need seasons of time to change what they believe, so be ready to graciously accept an “agree to disagree” conclusion.  Hopefully, this will keep you from trying to force the brother into your camp.

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About Brent Osterberg

Ransomed sinner, husband to Keri, father to the kiddos three, associate pastor at Calvary Bible Church in Fort Worth, TX, and lover of most things epic. View all posts by Brent Osterberg

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