When was the last time you engaged in a discussion with someone you disagreed with? Our current culture is becoming more and more polarized and engaging in less and less dialogue. With each side creating an enemy of the other, it’s become more and more challenging to have a discussion—not a fight—about really important topics without risking damage to our relationship with one another.
As Christians, we can model to the world what it looks like to love one another even as we disagree. Because the body of Christ is blessed with lots of different kinds of people with differing backgrounds, perspectives, and personal convictions, we’re not always going to agree on every topic, even if we agree on main doctrines of faith.
Those conversations can not only be stretching but also God-glorifying, if we engage in them with these principles in mind. These guidelines come from Christlike Dialogue, a ministry dedicated to helping engage people with differing views in conversations that honor God.Keep in mind they are guidelines, not rules, or “steps to follow”. While they’re helpful in providing safe parameters for a discussion of differences, the primary goal is to prepare our hearts to be one in Christ before we begin to dialogue.
1 // PRAY Ask God to help you gain a greater understanding of each other, of what is true, and of what God might want to reveal about Himself through the conversation. – Psalm 18:30
2 // FIND COMMON GROUND Identify a common subject of interest for the dialogue. Read John 4:1-26 for an example. It can be anything you can identify as common ground (such as water in the example) that might help you relate to one another more clearly.
3 // BE HONEST Authenticity is highly valued. – Proverbs 24:26
4 // BE HUMBLE If one of the parties is in authority over the other(s),
it’s important to give people under authority freedom to respectfully discuss matters of concern without negative consequences. – Matthew 20:25-28
5 // BE TEACHABLE Remain open to the possibility of being wrong about your position, and to the possibility of being deceived. – Proverbs 3:5-6 | Jeremiah 17:9 | James 1:26
6 // LISTEN Learn from one another and don’t attempt to persuade others to your point of view or assume someone is wrong just because he or she doesn’t agree with you. Seek to understand and be understood as to why each of you believe what you believe. James 1:19-20 | Philippians 2:3-4
7 // PURSUE TRUTH Agree to give one another the freedom to speak the truth as each perceives it, without interruption from the other(s), except to ask questions for clarification. Agree to consider the Bible as a reliable source of truth and wisdom for life’s challenges. Psalm 51:6 | John 14:6 | 8:32
8 // PERSEVERE IN LOVE It is not important to agree with one another; it is important that you extend mutual respect and perfect courtesy to others, despite differences. This does not mean that you condone something about which you disagree; but it does mean that you don’t withdraw your love from others just because they don’t see things exactly as you do. Remember: the relationship is more important than the issue. John 13:34-35 | Titus 3:1-2
9 // JUDGE NOT Refrain from being critical or judgmental of others. – Matthew 7:1-5
10 // TRUST GOD WITH THE OUTCOME Agree to leave another person’s decision, and the consequences of that decision, between that person and God. (1 Peter 2:23 | 2 Timothy 2:24-26 ) Some situations may require church discipline to be administered in love. – Matthew 18:15-17
For more information about Christlike Dialogue and their mission, visit their website HERE.