I don’t know if I’ve ever disagreed with more people than I do right now. Whether it’s election candidates and issues, vaccine protocols, COVID shutdowns and mask mandates, police funding or 2020 sports, we are all finding things to argue about.
Corrie ten Boom once described watching her father, a devout Christian, talk with Jews in the watchmaking business in the decades before World War II. “After the briefest possible discussion of business, Father would draw a small Bible from his traveling case; the wholesaler, whose beard would be even longer and fuller than Father’s, would snatch a book or a scroll out of a drawer, clap a prayer cap onto his head; and the two of them would be off, arguing, comparing, interrupting, contradicting — reveling in each other’s company.[i]
We don’t see that much anymore.
Instead we have journalists fired over politically incorrect stories. Facebook posts proudly declaring a refusal to make eye contact with anyone not wearing a mask (or anyone wearing one). Social media users asking everyone who disagrees with them to unfriend or unfollow them. A satire publisher disinvited from his alma mater’s chapel speaking engagement.
Cancel culture at its finest.
In this world, you will have conflict
These last few weeks I’ve been helping lead a Bible study on the book of Jude for preteen girls at my church. It’s been incredible studying this oft-overlooked book, especially in these times. The central theme of Jude is that we are called to contend for the faith — to fight for truth.
Yes, we are called to fight for truth. We are also called to love. And to overlook offenses. You know what we are not called to do? Pretend conflict doesn’t exist. We have to face it.
We may be called to fight, but that doesn’t mean we fight like everybody else. There are rules we follow as we contend for the faith. We fight right.
1. Respect. Realize that the other person probably has a perfectly valid reason for coming to their conclusion. There is no place for making personal attacks or emotional jabs at the “ridiculousness” of their position. We need to respect others and their opinions.
2. Listen. This just might be a greater weapon than any of our well-versed arguments. When people realize that we respect them enough to listen to them without interrupting, and when we take the time to acknowledge what they say instead of rushing to make our next point, they will be more willing to listen to our opinions. We must earn the right to be heard.
3. Put a stone in their shoe. I learned this from pro-life group Justice for All (JFA), that trains volunteers (usually college students) to have kind and bold conversations about abortion and the preborn child’s rights. Deeply-held beliefs are rarely changed in one conversation, so we shouldn’t expect someone to switch sides as we’re talking. Instead, try to put a “stone in their shoe”— a little thought or question that will stick with them for days or weeks, gently questioning their stance.
A time to be silent
There is a difference between being able to argue our position clearly and being argumentative. We don’t have to air every opinion we have on every topic, which is a sure-fire path to being that obnoxious person everyone avoids at…well, every kind of social event.
If someone seems to be looking for a fight or trying to frustrate us, it is probably time to change the topic. A polite, “I’m not sure we’ll agree on this, and I don’t want to start a fight, so let’s talk about something else,” may be the best thing to say.
Sometimes, we even need to walk away. If the other person refuses to change the subject or gets increasingly agitated, it’s time to physically leave the conversation.
A few weeks ago, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, prompting a flurry of eulogies and stories from her life. Several stories revolved around the solid friendship she enjoyed with fellow Supreme Court Justice and ideological opposite Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016.
One Facebook post I read told of Scalia sending flowers to Ginsburg on her birthday. Another article shared about meals they would enjoy with their spouses at each other’s homes, and quoted Ginsburg’s explanation of their unlikely friendship: “I attack ideas. I don’t attack people.”
I think the apostle Paul would have agreed with Justice Ginsburg. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood,” he wrote, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
There will be much conflict in the next few days and weeks. As we talk with our neighbors, friends and family members, we are called to stand for truth and contend for the faith. But let’s make every effort to fight the right way.
[i] “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom, 2006.
Copyright 2020 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.