Our church leadership group is reading a book, The Good and Beautiful Community, by James Bryan Smith. It is a book that brings together the ideas of spiritual formation and community engagement. It is thought-provoking as well as practical.
We recently discussed one of the chapters: “The Christ-Centered Community; Loving those we disagree with. What struck me was the emphasis on getting along, something that is in short supply lately. When we really stop and think about it, most times we disagree with others on non-essential issues: ideas or actions that in the long haul won’t matter. Similarly to the big Christmas argument that no one in the family quite remembers the topic. Relationships become tense and possibly broken as each side harbors hurt, wounded pride and misunderstanding. When we really get to the heart of an issue we find that we generally agree on essential fundamentals. Not all the time, of course. And recently there seems to be more and more disagreement on even the essentials of human existence.
In the application section, the author reminds us of the 18th-century Methodist leader John Wesley’s advice on loving those with whom we disagree:
Treat them as companions.
Do not think of speak evil of them.
Pray for them.
Encourage them to do good.
Collaborate with them in ministry.
Granted, this is written for Christ-followers in getting along with other Christ-followers, but I think that it has universal appeal. I think that these truths apply across the board. Just because someone doesn’t have your same beliefs doesn’t mean that you cannot pray for them (or think about putting your shoes in theirs for a while). While one might not call their work, “ministry”, you can still work with others in whatever job/service they do.
Makes me wonder- what would happen if our President and Congressional members prayed for each other? Treated one another as companions? Encouraged one another? Did not speak evil of each other?And, shall we even dare say, collaborated together?
Closer to home, what about the people with whom I disagree? Some times I am so annoyed with others that I do not want to think or pray for them and I definitely do not want to encourage or collaborate with them. Although I definitely want to speak evil of them- to all who will listen! Not a very good approach to building community.
Are you currently not getting along with someone or a group of someones? Are there any of the five suggestions you can try? I am thinking of one woman in particular who drives me crazy. Perhaps I need to stop thinking (and speaking) “evil”. (Evil might be too strong a word. But I do have the tendency to speak those subtle sarcastic remarks which are not encouraging nor uplifting.)
I did hear some wise advice once: find something positive to begin and end each conversation. If only certain twits (Is that the name for people who use Twitter?) would start that practice, imagine how much our political scene would change.
What about you? How do you handle disagreements? With your family, friends or co-workers? Do you ignore them? Provoke them? Love them?
Today, how can you get along with others or help someone else get along?