“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” — 1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)
It doesn’t matter where you go; differing opinions surround you. But it’s not the varying viewpoints that are annoying. The tone, insistent attitudes (my way or the highway), disrespect, insults, and the lost art of listening are troubling.
Okay, I recognize there’s no relief from conflict.
Dissensions have existed since the beginning of time. Humanity has, does, and will continue to hold different values. We have different perceptions about many things. Our desires are not always equal. A nostalgic longing for times that seemed more peaceful is also deceptive. The reality is that conflict has been and always will be with us.
So, since we can’t avoid conflict, can we at least seek harmony?
The apostle Paul appealed for concord. To suggest there should never be diverse opinions — inside or outside the church — is unrealistic. Paul advocates that despite our differences, we must continuously pursue unity.
Will we always see eye-to-eye on everything? No. Is it conceivable to believe that we can always agree with each other? I don’t think so. But is it possible to be respectful of others despite our differences? YES.
Jesus did not always agree with the Pharisees, tax collectors, or political parties. His unwillingness to compromise the Father’s agenda often made him a target to those who rejected God’s way. But he refused to intimidate. He always invited people to follow him. And there’s a big difference between intimidation and invitation.
Intimidation stops communication. Invitation encourages dialogue. Force sends the message “you don’t matter.” An invitation is respectful.
Romans 12:16-18 establishes the goal:
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Peace is always preferred but not always possible. However, diversity does not have to become dismissive. Paul’s instructions go on to give insight as to how we can avoid dismissing others when we disagree:
Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. — Romans 12:19-21 (ESV)
While I can’t escape conflict, I can pursue unity!
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