Disagreement, conflict, friction and opposing preferences are all part of life — even life in the local church community. There is just no way around it. As Christians, we’d all like to agree on all things all the time and enjoy the ensuing harmony. But realistically, we will never agree on everything even on matters relating to faith, theology, and practice. And if our hope for harmony rests in us always agreeing we will be sorely disappointed.
“Some misguided Christian leaders feel that they must preserve harmony at any cost, so they do everything possible to reduce friction. They should remember that there is no friction in a machine that has been shut down for the night. Turn off the power, and you will have no problem with moving parts. Also remember that there is a human society where there are no problems: the cemetery. The dead have no differences of opinion. They generate no heat, because they have no energy and no motion. But their penalty is sterility and complete lack of achievement. What then is the conclusion of the matter? That problems are the price of progress, that friction is the concomitant of motion, that a live and expanding church will have a certain quota of difficulties as a result of its life and activity. A Spirit-filled church will invite the anger of the enemy.”
Tozer is right, a living and expanding church will have a certain quota of difficulties and disagreements. God understands this and is neither surprised nor displeased when friction and disagreements arise among his people. For God, the issue is not will such things happen but how will we handle them when they do. The enemy works for anger and division. The Spirit of God works for humility and unity.
In our secular culture, I believe a key to the Church’s future impact rests on Christians’ ability and willingness to sometimes agree to disagree on non-essentials. Humbly accepting some of our differences and joyfully rallying around those things that unite us – specifically around the one who unites us, Jesus, is critical. Given our sinful tendencies, Jesus recognized the challenge and prayed for us – his followers – the Church. He said, “Father, I pray for those who will believe in me…that all of them may be one, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Summary? Unity and oneness was Jesus’ desire for his people.
True oneness, however, requires a realistic understanding that conflict occurs. But it also requires we learn to humbly live with the tension of disagreement. As Tozer says, “The dead have no differences of opinion.” Let’s face it … if you have an opinion it means you’re alive. But no living human being is infallible. So as long as we joyfully unite around the truth of Jesus and his Gospel of grace, our ability to impact the world remains strong. Perhaps this is one other thing we in the church can all agree on.