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s20050206ms_What To Do When I Disagree

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What to Do When I Disagree

“36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the brethren in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 And Barnabas was of a mind to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp contention, so that they separated from each other; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” Acts 15:36-41

¨      [CONSULT] the [BOUNDARIES]

“6 I have applied all this to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brethren, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another”.1 Cor  4:6

“1As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions…17 For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit; 18 he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.” Romans 14:1 & 17-18

 

 

¨      [COMMIT] to [COMMUNICATION]

 

 

“Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.” Ephesians 4:25-27

·       Talking To The Party Involved Makes You A Peacemaker.

 

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Matthew 18:15

·       Talking About The Parties Involved Makes You Perverse.

 

“A perverse man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends” .Prov 16:28

¨      [CHECK] Your [ATTITUDE]

“1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” “Knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if one loves God, one is known by him.”1 Corinthians 8:1-3

Loving God Is Essential To Human Disagreements Because…

It Allows Me To Get The Focus Off [MYSELF].

 

“3 Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”Phil 2:3-4

It Allows Me To Stop Arguing And Start [LISTENING].

 

By insolence the heedless make strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.

Proverbs 13:10

 

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”

Proverbs 12:15

It Allows Me To Be Accurate In My [Self-Evaluation].

 

“46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you... 48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 6:46a & 48

 

 

It Helps Me Follow God’s [DIRECTION] And [INSTRUCTION].

 

“8 Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.  9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way”. Psalms25:8-9

PSALM 133

A Song of Ascents.

 

“1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is

when brothers dwell in unity!

2 It is like the precious oil upon the head,

running down upon the beard,

upon the beard of Aaron,

running down on the collar of his robes!

3 It is like the dew of Hermon,

which falls on the mountains of Zion!

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,

life for evermore.”


Benjamin Franklin once said about disagreements, “Many a long dispute may be thus abridged: ‘It is so; it is not so.’ ‘It is so; it is not so.’ (scp When Christians Disagree by Michael Luke)”--or as the more modern and terser would say: “Is too; is not.” Is too; is not” Arguments and disagreements are no surprise to the married, or to politicians, or sadly to churches. Sometimes our disputes develop a life of their own for example. “In the late l800s there were just two deacons in a small Baptist church in Mayfield County, Kentucky. One Sunday, one of the deacons put up a small wooden peg in the back wall so the minister could hang up his hat. When the other deacon discovered the peg, he was outraged that he had not been consulted. Before long, the church took sides and eventually split. To this day, the story goes, you can find in Mayfield County, Kentucky, the Anti-peg Baptist Church.” [Doyle Young. New Life for Your Church. (p. 63) (scp Maintaining Joy In the Midst of Disagreement by John Hamby).

While this story is humorous at the expense of our religious friends we are no less guilty. Not for a moment should we assume that disagreeing is confined to a particular religious group. To peg or not to peg is of course silly, but so are some of the issues we have disagreed about. For example we’ve argued and split over the merits of eating in a church building. How silly is that? So let’s point the finger in the right direction. Not at others, but squarely back to ourselves. If you attend this church or any other one you will find yourself sooner or later disagreeing with someone or something.

Paul and Barnabas are classic examples of good men disagreeing sharply with one another. In Acts Luke records their argument. He says, “36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the brethren in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 And Barnabas was of a mind to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp contention, so that they separated from each other; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”

Barnabas’s given name was Joseph. The apostles surnamed him Barnabas which means son of encouragement early on in the Jerusalem church. He is a Levite and a native of Cyprus. He is the first to see the potential of Paul. It is Barnabas who actually brings Paul into the broader stream of the church. Introducing him to the apostles and assuring the church that Saul has become Paul the Christian apostle to the Gentiles. Barnabas is a man focused on encouraging and helping other human beings. So it is not very surprising that Barnabas is of a mind to encourage and give John Mark a second chance.

Luke says there a rose a sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas. The idea of the Greek word is an angry cutting argument. They lost their tempers in a big explosion, and theirs words became swords, that severs the working relationship between these two very fine men. I wonder if what upset Barnabas is Paul’s unwillingness to over look John Marks serious error, and give his cousin another chance. Perhaps what angers Paul so much is Barnabas’s unwillingness to see how damaging and hurtful John Mark is to their ministry. What is interesting is that the Holy Spirit neither condemns nor condones either man. Barnabas sails with John to Cyprus, and Paul chooses Silas going through Syria and Cilicia strengthening the local churches.

We will never know how much this separation affected Paul. But maybe the Holy Spirit used it as a springboard to inspire him to seek a less argumentative and disagreeable manner with others. He is after all the one who defines love for us in 1 Corinthians 13. Throughout his letters he urges humility, longsuffering, and patience. He gives lots of practical advice on getting along with others. By the end of his life Paul becomes the great conciliator.

Paul and Barnabas make us aware that good Christian people disagree, but they also help us to know that we can learn from our disagreements. Paul gives us a lot of instruction on human relationships. And I honestly feel I could produce a years worth of sermons just on this topic. Don’t get excited. I only want to make three points this morning from Paul about what to do when I disagree.

The problem with disagreements is that we go beyond scriptural boundaries. When we argue we allow our pride to get the better of us, and go beyond disagreeing to being hurtful and harmful. This past Tuesday morning I walked out to Alvie’s office, and said, “Something is wrong with this office.” She said, “What is it?” I said, “I miss Paul Heathcott”. Every Tuesday for the past seven years, before Jolly Sixties, Paul would take out the trash and then sit in the green double chair until time to begin. Others of course would come in an out of the office, but Paul was the center on Tuesday mornings. And during the hour before Jolly Sixties we loved to argue politics with each other. As soon as he found out I voted Republican in 1997 we began a friendly debate that was fun for both of us. I can’t remember once either of us losing our tempers or feeling ill towards the other. Why, because we had the right boundary. The Apostle Paul writes, “I have applied all this to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brethren, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” He is instructing us that when we disagree we must consult the boundaries, because it is the Scriptures that set the limits to our discussions.

The Corinthians are disagreeing about whose disciple they should be. Should they belong to Peter, or Apollos, or Paul? And one of Paul’s main points throughout chapters one, two, and three are that preachers are servants not lords. Paul says he’s applies this truth to himself and Apollos for two very specific reasons. First is that we learn not to go beyond what is written. And second, that we do not blow up our egos against one another.

We are to set the boundaries which God’s written inspired words draw for us. Paul is telling us that what God writes is more important than our egos. The standard of conduct and behavior is plainly stated in the Bible. And it is the measure by which we all are going to be judged by God. We must learn that those scriptural boundaries of conduct, of attitude, and of truth are meant to limit us. That is what boundaries do. They are fences that mean when we stay inside of them there is security, and outside there is danger. We are going to disagree at times, but there are safe limits within God’s words for that to occur.

One boundary that helps us is Romans 14. In verse 1 Paul says, “As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions.” We have a fence which prohibits us from weakening the faith of others through being argumentative. We are to welcome, accept, and love weaker brothers, but not for the purpose of binding our opinions on them. What is clear through this chapter is that God is the Master and Savior of people who have opposite opinions. For example, can we sing a Christmas carol during the month of December? In my opinion it is appropriate, and in others, who love God just as much as I do, in their opinion it is not. God is going to save both of us. Our opinions have nothing to do with the cross. And the boundary is simple; discuss what is best but don’t fight and divide over it.

There are more important things Paul says than our opinions. In verse 17 he gives us the real boundary. “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The real fence is what makes us right, brings peace, and produces joyful spirituality. We are not about keeping traditions nor or we about progressive change for changes sake. God says we need to be concerned with making his rule the most important part of our relationships. The kingdom of God is what is important, not my opinion that some tradition must be maintained, nor impressing someone with how progressive I am.

We are here to serve God. Look at verse 18; “he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men” One of the surest ways to be rejected by God and others is to be an opinionated, self promoting, do it my way individual. To be acceptable then is to serve Jesus by putting the kingdom’s interests above your own. It is those men and women who are willing to subordinate their own will to God’s, and what is in the best interest of his kingdom, which are blessed and accepted. Not one of us is free from responsibility for the spiritual well being of our spiritual family. Therefore, consult the boundaries the next time you discuss. Keep your discussion within God’s framework, and you will grow and help his kingdom to prosper.

Next Paul tells us to commit to communication. Maybe you’ve heard the famous line, “What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate.” Perhaps some of you are old enough to remember this famous line from the authoritarian captain played by character actor Strother Martin in the 1967 movie, “Cool Hand Luke.” Paul Newman’s academy award nominated performance as Lucas “Luke” Jackson is a character study of a non-conformist, anti-hero loner who bull headedly resists authority and the Establishment. One of the films posters carried the tagline: “The man … and the motion picture that simply do not conform.” This film by director Stuart Rosenberg proved to be one of the key films of the 1960’s, a decade in which protest against established powers was a key theme. (scp ““What We Have Here is…Failure To Communicate” by Bruce Ferris)

Unfortunately for many Christians we too become character studies in not conforming to the will of God when we disagree. We bull headedly refuse to communicate or speak with a brother or sister who has offended us. And therefore, we resist God’s authority by being angry and sullen with one another. Paul writes, “25 Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.” I wish I could tell you that I am calm, unruffled, and reasonable all the time when I disagree with someone. But that’s one of those falsehoods that I need to put away. Sometimes I get angry. Sometimes I lose patience. The fact that I do get angry does not lessen my responsibility to speak or listen to the truth. Communication is the willingness to speak what is true because I love my neighbor more than I love myself. And truth can hurt when I hear it, and it can hurt when I speak it. But it is truth that proves the genuineness of my heart. If I speak it or hear it I must be willing to commit to it.

Paul and Barnabas got very angry with each other, but they heard the truth in each others words. We have no sense from the Scripture that these two held any kind of grudge. Their disagreement led to the severing of their joint ministry. But it did not keep them from putting truth first in their lives. Both continue to serve God. They got angry but they did not harbor that anger, nor did they let Satan have an opportunity because of their philosophical differences. Barnabas does reclaim John Mark for the ministry, and Paul allows him to serve in the Gentile work. John Mark becomes the first author to write a full gospel of Jesus from Peter’s remembrances. And we should thank Barnabas that he restores John Mark who then goes on to serve both Paul and Peter. And God continues to use his Gospel to save countless souls up to this very moment. And we also should thank Paul for giving John Mark a second chance so that his gospel is accepted by the gentile community. And because of that it is preserved for us today. That’s what commitment to communicate can do. We solve our problems with each other with truth.

Since God expects us to solve our differences by speaking the truth with each other, then talking to the party involved, in a disagreement, makes you a peacemaker. Jesus commands us “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” When you do this it requires courage and dedication to the kingdom of Jesus. The goal according to Jesus is not to offend the one who has offended you, but to gain him as a brother. We cannot restore relationships in silence or by ignoring problems. Paul says don’t let the sun go down on your anger. It is a metaphor for encouraging us to solve the relationship by first going to the brother alone as soon as possible. Jesus continues to commands us saying if that doesn’t work take others along with you. Again, the goal is to gain the brother by communicating and solving the problem. Finally, if that won’t accomplish the goal of gaining your brother, then the problem needs to be revealed to the whole congregation. Not for the purpose of dis-fellowship. It is meant to gain the brother and solve the problem. If that doesn’t work it is at this point that the offending brother is treated as a Gentile. You have gone as far as you can to communicate to one who has offended you.

On the other hand talking about the parties involved makes you perverse. Solomon hammers this point home when he says, “A perverse man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” Do not think for a moment that if you are whispering cutting and biting remarks about others that that is anything but perverse. It is plain old evil. The word devil means slanderer. When Paul says give no opportunity to the Devil he is telling us not to let the Devil’s nature hold sway in our lives by slandering our spiritual family. Hell’s demon rejoice when Christian are devouring each other with caustic and negative words. And they especially enjoy it when we do it secretly. It is a meal of horrible delight for them, because with each evil word we pave the road to hell for ourselves. And they will feast on us for an eternity because we have become just like them. It is not sinful to disagree. It is not sinful to be angry, but it is perverse to slice your brothers and sisters into small bits by talking about them.

The last point I want to mention that Paul makes about what to do when I disagree is to check your attitude. In 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 Paul writes, “1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” “Knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if one loves God, one is known by him.” Paul’s subject is what to do about food offered to idols. There were some whose knowledge led them to say food offered to idols is food because idols are nothing. There were others in Corinth who said that idols represented demons, so that food was not food rather it was a participation in Devil worship. These are the two bits of knowledge that Paul contrasts for us in the midst of this controversy.

Arrogance is defined by Webster as “the quality or state of overbearing pride or self-importance”. He is clear that knowledge by itself produces arrogance. It puffs one’s ego out of proportion to what it should be. Note he says we all possess knowledge. Both sides of this issue have some correct facts. The spiritual problem is that both sides thought they knew all the truth about food offered to idols. So when we think we know it all that is a sure sign we haven’t learned our subject like we should. True knowledgeable experts on any subject sense they only scratch the surface of their subject. It is the arrogant who fall into the trap of feeling like they’ve arrived and can learn no more. It is the arrogant who stop learning and caring about others. Pure knowledge without love is the way to ignorance and self delusion. Knowledge without love leads one to look down on others who don’t possess the same insight or accept the same facts.

Strangely he does not tell us to love others. Rather, the most fruitful attitude is to love God, who really has all the facts, and the reward is that God knows us. When we love God we want other to love God, and that’s what constructs the lives others in the truth. The best thing any of us can do, when we disagree, is to check our attitude to make sure we love God more than anything else. Then God can work through our love for Him to construct or build each other up. Let me close with four things that loving God does in our disagreements.

First loving God is essential to human disagreements because it allows me get the focus off of myself. Paul commands the Philippians to “3 Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” He is speaking of having the same mind as Jesus when he died on the cross. When I forget the cross then I focus on myself. When I love God because he has saved me then I can focus on others. The cross of Jesus is the key here. I can’t really love others until I love God for my salvation and grace.

Next loving God allows me to stop arguing and start listening. Solomon says, “By insolence the heedless make strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.” Arrogance makes you careless of others, but when you listen to God you will listen to others. Wise men and women recognize that God often brings people into our lives to give us wisdom. They are answers to prayers. He also says, “The way of the fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Loving God makes me understand that I am not the measure of all things. Fearing God is the beginning of that wisdom, and listening to advice is the key to fearing God.

Next loving God allows me to be accurate in my self evaluation. What is the standard by which I judge my behavior when I disagree? Jesus asks us, “If you love those who love you, what reward have you.” There is none because even the lost love those who love them. That is only human nature to band together with the ones who agree with you. He places a much higher standard on us by calling us to be like God. He says, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” God loves his enemies, and He blesses them. How can I evaluate myself accurately until I see what God does? Jesus wants me to be perfect like God and he is the standard by which I accurately judge myself.

Lastly, loving God helps me follow God’s direction and instruction. The Psalmist declares, “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.” To love God means that I have humble myself before him. I’ve realized that only he can instruct and direct me in the paths of life. It is not whether I win an argument, but rather am I walking with humble regard for his will. Being perfect is not that we never get angry. Nor is it that we avoid all disagreements. Being perfect is humbly listening to God’s direction and following his instructions. It is getting up after we’ve stepped off the path and repenting. It is trusting the cross of Jesus, and asking our brothers and sisters to forgive us. God is good and upright and he will always lead us in the right path.

When we love God then our human relationships get better. And our church dwells in unity. I did not say that we don’t disagree at times. I am saying we have the unity that produces eternal life. Would you do me a favor and take your news and notes. Look at the last Scripture on it. It is Psalms 133. Let’s all say it together. This is a beautiful poem, and I wish we knew it in the original language. But enough of it comes through that we will get the feel of Divine poetry. There is a truth that you must take away from here today. Lest say it together.

“1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is

when brothers dwell in unity!

2 It is like the precious oil upon the head,

running down upon the beard,

upon the beard of Aaron,

running down on the collar of his robes!

3 It is like the dew of Hermon,

which falls on the mountains of Zion!

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,

life for evermore.”

Unity is good and pleasant. It feels like oil running down ones face in holy worship. Or like the sweet dew that is carried from the mountains to the dry desert. Dew from Mt. Hermon watered the temple area of Mt. Zion. And after a hot night that dew felt good to the skin like the oil did. That is what it is like when we dwell in unity. It is pleasant and good. Why is this so? Because it is in the unity of the church that God has commanded the blessing of eternal life. Look deeply and the last to stanzas. “For there the Lord has commanded life for evermore.” When we disagree it is essential to our salvation to consult God’s boundaries, to commit to communicate, and to check our attitudes. And the church will be good and pleasant. I read a few months ago this statement. “When the church is right it is like heaven on earth.”

If you are a guest today with us we want you to know that our congregation is a pleasant and good place to find eternal life. We are not perfect. We don’t have all knowledge. We would never present ourselves except as unworthy servants of God. We are committed to God and his word as our only guide, and you will be blessed forever by coming back again and again. If you are a regular attender then you know this is a good and pleasant place. Why don’t you allow God to add you to us, by obeying him in pledging your heart to Jesus in baptism? Your sins will be forgiven and your life infused with the Holy Spirit. And if you are a member you’ve experienced the goodness that comes from unity. Why not decide today to recommit your heart to God so that we can be even more pleasant and good.

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