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How Should Christians Handle Opposing Views?

In a culture where opinions and personal identities are one in the same, how should Christians discuss opposing views?

Relationships
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Have you ever found yourself in a situation where someone expresses an opinion that you strongly disagree with? It might be about a hot-button political issue or something that strikes at the core of your values. What do you do in those moments? How do you react when faced with opposing views? 

This is a scenario that's becoming all too common. We freeze, uncertain about what to say or how to respond. It's as if we're standing at a crossroads, unsure of which path to take. 

Maybe you've been in a group setting where someone expresses a point of view that is completely opposed to your own. All eyes turn to you, waiting for your response. The pressure mounts, and you feel caught in a dilemma. You don't want to rock the boat, but you also don't want to compromise your beliefs. So, what do you do? 

Opposing views in today’s culture 

In our society today, we're witnessing an increasing inability to disagree respectfully. We struggle to react when confronted with differing opinions, and we often end up either saying nothing or avoiding the topic altogether. We're left wondering: How can we disagree and still maintain healthy relationships? How do we handle these conversations without causing harm or offense? 

The challenge of navigating disagreements goes beyond simple differences of opinion. In our culture, our beliefs and convictions have become deeply intertwined with our personal identities. When someone shares an opinion that contradicts our own, it can feel like a direct attack on our identity. It's not just a difference of perspective; it becomes a challenge to who we are.  

This is precisely why these conversations are so tricky to navigate. We're not just discussing ideas; we're navigating the complex terrain of personal identities and deeply held convictions. 

Truth tellers and people pleasers 

So, what's the solution? How can we engage in disagreement without causing harm? There are two extreme responses, and we all fall somewhere on this spectrum: 

On one side are the "truth tellers." These are the individuals who are unafraid to express their opinions, even when they know it might make others uncomfortable. They prioritize the truth above all else and are willing to stand out from the crowd. 

While there is a certain beauty in their boldness, there's also a potential pitfall: if truth tellers fail to communicate their views with grace, their message can come across as offensive and alienating. 

On the other side of the spectrum are the "people pleasers." These individuals value maintaining positive relationships above all else. They seek common ground and prioritize harmony. 

While this approach does a better job at preserving relationships, it also runs the risk of avoiding necessary truths. Ignoring important issues to keep the peace can lead to complacency and an unwillingness to address pressing problems. 

Communicating truth with grace 

The challenge lies in finding the balance between these two extremes. It's about embracing both truth and grace in our conversations. Consider the example of Jesus – described as being "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).  

Jesus didn't shy away from speaking the truth, but he did so in a way that was filled with compassion, love, and understanding. He engaged with people, listened to them, and built bridges of connection before sharing his message. 

Paul, one of Jesus' followers, demonstrated this approach when he addressed the people of Athens in Acts 17. He observed their culture, respected their beliefs, found common ground, and then addressed the issue at hand – all while maintaining a respectful and open dialogue. This pattern is a blueprint for navigating conversations with grace and truth. 

How to disagree respectfully 

So, how can we apply this approach to our own conversations? Here are four steps to help you talk about opposing views while maintaining respectful relationships: 

  • Listen: Take the time to genuinely listen to the other person's viewpoint. Don’t listen for the sake of poking holes in their viewpoint or forming your own rebuttal. Seek to understand where they're coming from and the reasons behind their beliefs. This step is essential for building a foundation of respect and empathy.
  • Respect: Cheap respect is just lip service, and most people can sniff it out right away. Show genuine respect by acknowledging the validity of their perspective. Find common ground and points of agreement. Highlighting areas of shared understanding can create a more open and receptive atmosphere for dialogue. 
  • Find common ground: Identify common values or concerns that you both share. This helps bridge the gap between differing opinions and emphasizes your shared humanity. Building on common ground can pave the way for a more productive conversation. 
  • Keep "it” on the table: Address the topic at hand, even if it involves expressing differing viewpoints. Make it clear that you value the relationship and want to engage in open and honest dialogue. Focus on the issue itself rather than attacking the individual. 

Remember, the goal is not to change the other person's mind or to win an argument. The goal is to engage in respectful and meaningful conversations that promote understanding and growth. 

The value of conversations 

In a world where opposing views often lead to division, it's crucial that we learn how to engage in conversations that bridge the gap between differing perspectives. This approach doesn't mean avoiding difficult topics or sacrificing our convictions. Instead, it's about learning how to communicate effectively when we disagree. It's about fostering an environment where open dialogue is possible, and where understanding and growth can flourish. 

The next time you find yourself in a conversation where disagreements arise, remember the conversation spectrum and the four steps to navigate them. By doing so, you can be a positive force for change in our culture, ultimately introducing more people to Jesus along the way. 

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If you're looking for more advice on navigating tense or high-stakes conversations, check out these resources:

What Does the Bible Say About Being Offended?

How Should Christians Handle Cancel Culture?

Is Being Offended a Sign of Weakness?

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LCBC stands for Lives Changed By Christ. We are one church in multiple locations across Pennsylvania. Find the location closest to you or join us for Church Online. We can’t wait to connect with you! 


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