unavoidable divides

A few weeks ago, Charlotte ran out of gas. I still feel confused and strange writing that sentence; how does that even happen? However, following the past 14 months of weird events and seemingly endless challenges, I’m not terribly surprised. But I am terribly weary. My first reaction when a loved one told me about the gas shortage was to almost completely shut him down. My brain simply couldn’t handle one more instance of uncertainty, division, or confusion. I was simply too tired to manage it.  But most of all I did not feel like I had energy for the disagreements and upheaval this new situation felt likely to cause.

How do you feel about disagreeing with other people? I don’t really like it, especially with close friends and family. And if they are fellow believers, it often feels even more uncomfortable and challenging to navigate. Now, if we are talking about whether pizza or burgers are a better meal, I can hang with the conversation without much stress. Conversely, if we are discussing the potential risks (or lack of risk) of Covid, the political tension of the last election, or other significantly charged topics, I’d rather we agree or just stop having the conversation. So much of my weariness throughout the past 14 months has been caused by navigating significant disagreements like these. In my own attempt to find certainty and security, I want to believe that since my view is informed by thoughtful consideration of the Bible, theirs should match — right?? Unfortunately, that is not how this has worked out in my world. And it has been painful. All of these thoughts leave me wondering: how do I navigate these seemly unavoidable disagreements in a way that is potentially less harmful to my relationships?

Matthew 18:15-20 says:

Now if your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that on the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, he is to be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.  For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. (New American Standard Bible)

When I read this passage, I see Jesus lay out a process for confrontation, conversation, and reconciliation. These gradual instructions (starting with a private conversation with the person and slowly increasing in intensity) for how to seek reconciliation and unity with our brother and/or sister suggests to me just how important it is to God that we remain connected and in right relationship with each other. The passage ends with a lovely image of what can happen where two or three of us are gathered in His name. If we are together, Jesus promises that he will also be there in our midst.

Now, this reconciliation process may sound simple but this last year has taught me how incredibly hard this is to do. However, when I remind myself that the person I disagree with has been saved by grace—just as I have—I can feel my heart connect more to our shared identity in a God who is committed to pursue us and be with us, even in our foolishness. Acknowledging this shared identity, this place where we do stand together, helps me see more of what God sees in the person I am disagreeing with. What if God is out to redeem those I disagree with just as much as he is out to redeem me? This question humbles me and reminds me where my foundation is. Despite the pain, maybe it can be okay to disagree with someone (fellow believer or not) if I can trust that God is still present to both of us.

Letting myself ponder these ideas doesn’t solve everything, but it helps me to rest. If God is after the hearts of all people, I don’t have to fight so hard to be sure that we all agree on everything. God can be in charge of saving them, just like he was in charge of saving me. And maybe we can survive the next time Charlotte runs out of gas with just a touch more grace.

Noelle joined the Barnabas Center in May of 2018. She has a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from Berry College in Rome, GA and a Masters of Science in Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Previously she has worked with college age individuals and adults dealing with anxiety, depression, self-harm, identity issues, relationship concerns, and challenges related to life transitions. She is passionate about walking with individuals as they face the struggles of life and the questions that come from living in a broken world.

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