So, who do you know who lives or teaches from what you believe to be an incorrect viewpoint? Who around you seems to be following a path that you don’t agree with? Which groups in this world seem misguided or intentionally on the wrong path?
If you can think about someone in one or more of these categories, I’d like to ask you a few questions:
- Are you sure that you are right? I’m not trying to be obnoxious, here, but we can get stuck in a rut, and forget to look for other paths. When someone’s teachings clearly contradict those of Jesus Christ, we can test others’ words easily. When that’s not the case, though, we may need to set aside what we have been told in the past by other people, and honestly evaluate both our point of view and the other person’s claims, in light of God’s Word.
- Is this worth disagreeing about? Much of what we disagree about in this world isn’t a matter of right or wrong, or righteousness versus sin. In a world where the lost and hurting can usually be found less than a block away from us, do we need to spend time debating opinions and preferences?
- Why does the other person believe this? Remember, people make decisions based on what they know, what they want, and what they choose. There may be a perfectly logical reason why another person has come to a different conclusion than you. Here, though, we get to the challenging part: There’s no shortcut to learning this information about someone else. Other people may or may not be wrong, but the only way to understand their reasoning is to ask and to listen. (Note that the asking is important. Sometimes, if we only listen to whatever someone chooses to say on their own, without prompting, we never learn what lies beneath their statements.)
Yes, you might find that someone else’s position on a given subject is just wrong. Maybe you will talk with them and learn that they are intentionally choosing to do things that are sinful, out of a deep-seated rebellion against God (or against other authority). Maybe they won’t talk with you. If so, at least you tried.
On the other hand, maybe you will find that this person sees the value in one “edge” of a position, party, or principle, while you are being offended by the opposite “edge”. In the middle of these two extremes could exist some common ground for agreement. Maybe someone’s behavior and choices come out of a really bad situation, and you can empathize, giving you the chance to lovingly help them heal (possibly with some professional assistance). And, if nothing else, by understanding where someone is coming from, you can connect the dots between where they are today, and the best destination for them: a life spent in following Jesus Christ.
Until we understand, our ability to help change someone’s life for the better is limited. We can rail against falsehoods (and there is a place for righteous anger), but if we are to love those who are wrong, our goal must be more than just exposing their errors.
A gentle answer deflects anger,
but harsh words make tempers flare.
The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing,
but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.
Proverbs 15:1-2 NLT
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.