The Sweet Persuasion of the Soul

Is there a place for debate in Christendom?

Does having “one mind” for Christians mean we must agree with all other Christians, even when we don’t? This seems like a cut and dry answer, but politics and social issues complicates the command. I would hope most of us don’t think we have to agree on silly preferences, and hopefully all understand agreeing on things such as the gospel are vital. But what about in between stuff? Do I have to die to my own opinions, views political affiliations, for the sake of a Christian brother or sister so that we have “one mind?” We don’t have this figured out which is why there is so much division in the church, faith communities and in Christianity universal.  The world rightly accuses us of not acting Christ like in particular when it comes to how we debate. We need to learn how to disagree better with one another in applicable ways, not just in word, but indeed. is it a waste to write something on a topic like this assuming Christians know it? NO! many Christians’ including myself are struggling with how to get along with other believers and be of One Mind over things like vaccines, politics, social justices, liberalism, and sexual orientation and education.  Anger, frustration hurt, and fundamental incongruities seem to flare up and divide us, are we so angry at one another that we are the opposite of what Christ said we would be known by. Jesus said the world will know you by your love for one another. I don’t have all the answers but read on as I hash out some pitfalls and offer some helpful insights.

I am a Christian. I believe the bible is true. I believe Jesus when he says Holy Father, protect them by Your name, the name You gave Me, so that they may be one. I believe Peter and Paul when they say Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, and strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.” Jesus prayed while he was still on earth, “father, make them one as you and I are one.” This is not something we can conjur up, this is something Jesus asked the father to accomplish and it is divine work. But what is our role in all this oneness?

What does “unity of mind” mean and “being one” look like? How do Christian peoples and the body of Christ with many different thoughts and experiences and minds, “be of one mind” and behave like one body? There are many differing views in the world today, Christians are no exceptions, divisions are prevalent among Christ’s body, it often seems the church is not marked by unity and love, but by opinions, there are over 41,000 denominations of Christianity worldwide. The message this sends is that Christians cannot agree on issues that divide all peoples making Christians just like everyone else. Being Christian is no longer the defining factor in what we believe. Which means the bible is no longer the document which informs our beliefs and this sends the message that Christians are disconnected from their own ideals.   I confess I am conflicted when I disagree with Christian brothers and sisters on social, religion and political matters, but I’m more upset that they disagree with me. I know this attitude is not right. How do we reconcile differing perspectives and opinions? Why are we not having ONE MIND? How can we debate in a way that is God honoring? Grace Harbor pastor … says its all about who is the more mature Christian? Who is of the stronger faith – He must die to self-concede for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and because Christ died for the other guy too and after all it’s not about us. Good points, but how do we apply this in REAL life, does God desire mature believers simply restrain from challenging topics change the subject avoid disagreement? I don’t fully accept that, but neither do I reject it. wrestling in conversations with others and even with God himself might not be wrong, in fact it might even produce new growth and bring clearer understanding, so we mostly need to figure out HOW to debate with love and one mind.

A few months ago, I engaged in a heated discussion with a fellow Christian on a socio-political topic of which we had differing views. I wouldn’t say it ended well or that we had one mind. We permitted our different positions on social issues to divide us in that moment, rather than letting Christ define us. We manifested our insecurities more than our identities. We were arguing our beliefs rather than standing in them. the result was judgment and frustration. It was a useless exercise in divergence.  The good thing is it gave me pause. I need to shift gears; I need to rethink my purposes in argument.  It’s easy in that situation to walk away wondering…how can they call themselves Christians… I might have been thinking this because of the issue they didn’t align with but they might have been thinking this about me because of how aggressive and forceful I behaved. We are two totally different people does God truly ask and expect that we agree on everything simply because we are Christians?  

and what is the criteria for being a Christian? We know intellectually it isn’t alignment with certain beliefs, ideology, theology or denomination, in fact biblically its not even how we act? Is it a certain political party or social view or church affiliation? That night as I fell asleep, I knew I had notglorified God with my behavior, whether or not they are still a Christian I am and so it is my duty first and foremost to be God’s spokesperson for truth and representative in love because Christ dwells in me. Is there a better way to discuss important social and political topics without getting angry or abandoning personal convictions? Or most importantly without abandoning the very truth and commands Christ gave us? I believe we are to be of one mind and to love, but that doesn’t mean relinquishing the truth to do so. The Christian road is a narrow road.

it’s important and valuable that we know how to discuss hot issues affecting the world today in mature and Christ centered ways that lead to truth and hope. It’s central that Christians know how to apply God’s truth, and present the biblical worldview, my concern is that modern day Christians have lost the ability to do this while representing a Christ, is there a way we can discourse and disagree while preserving Christ’s deeper commandments?  To turn the other cheek, not give preference, be at peace with all men, shake off the dust…

Mankind has been made in the image of a creative God. We are to be thinking, creative intelligent beings. We are. Wi don’t believe God asks men to forfeit intelligence when we confess Christ but rather to fine tune our ability to converse, our intelligence, our grace and our intrapersonal interactions. Being One might be the work of the holy spirit, but loving your neighbor and treating others as better then ourselves is our work. In fact, the bible says of god-fearing men and women to be as wise as serpents, and that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. People ought to both expect Christians to be excellent in character and behavior and be angry and disappointed when Christians reflect poorly on God. Christians must learn how to have one foot on earth and one in heaven, honoring God and loving others. why? because we still live on earth we have to learn how to live here in a godly manner. Another reason that a lot is expected of Christian peoples is that behavior, not necessarily message is seen first.  Christ followers ought to be at the forefront of wisdom, knowledge and understanding, above reproach.  The content of our conversation may vary depending on our audience however our position of love and grace ought to remain steadfast no matter who we are talking to. AS God’s children we ought to be loving towards one another and show regard to all men, regardless if we agree or not; and always prepared to give an answer for what we believe in the spirit of grace.

No throat shoving, no force feeding, no hammering, fear mongering or manipulation. That is not representing Christ, he simply didn’t behave that way. And God’s commandment isn’t get everyone on your side, neither have I been given a lease on enlightening everyone. I’m not saying ditch the truth, I’m saying to present it in the best way possible so that it is acceptable. And if its not accepted then its in the hands of God.

Its ok that we read scripture differently than one another, depending on what God is weaving into our hearts in the moment. We do read differently and because we are different, we read different because we’re in diverse seasons of life. We all bring our unique selves and experiences to the interpretation of God’s word and then form our own beliefs about society. So, its natural that there will be times we do not see eye to eye on every scripture neither do we have to in order to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, still Christ is not divided. How are we to handle debate in a respectful way that honors God, the bible, truth and our friend?

what is the highest goal, to get the person to agree with me or to reveal and point to the love of Christ? And loving that person, the way Christ loves them is going to go much further than trying to convince them of something they don’t want to believe. Christianity is not about convincing people to believe in something, its about loving people because your convinced.

in Philippians and Corinthians Paul doesn’t say agree on everything, he says let there not be divisions? Paul disagreed with Jewish Council and debated his point; we can do this without being divided by hate and anger. Glyn Evans is the author of a self-discipleship book , Daily with the King and he says this about arguing : “I am allowed to counsel with my Christian colleagues in order to determine the mind of God Acts 15, but that is different from argument. Argument says, “you will see things my way,” but counsel asks, “what is God telling us to do?” a true disciple counsels but never argues.”

we are in a time period where we MUST learn this, the art of debate and the value of deliberations is fading fast under the efficiency of instant messages and social media. We must must must continue to converse with others and learn how to manage the highly emotional and hotly debated topics with grace. Christians must not be divided by politics and social ills. We must stand together in Christ, even though we differ on earthly matters, but sometimes we must debate in order to know the mind of God and what HE is telling us to do.  Let not those differing views on less important truths divide us. There some topics that are foundation stones to our faith that we must agree on, but how we approach people ought to be informed by our love for God and others first, then what we say will be well received.  We never want to lose a brother or sister in the faith over a topic that may be totally irrelevant to the kingdom of heaven.

 “One mind” means have the same Christ like goals, not necessarily uniform ideas and interpretations.  A friend of mine and I were discussing the doctrine of election and free will, and while we see this slightly different, we both came to the same conclusion that the way we believe about it actually helps us personally in our faith walk. For her leaning one way gives her great joy and peace and for me leaning the other way keep me clinging to Christ. We had the same mind even though we arrived at slightly different locations. And because our conversation was seasoned with grace and not about getting me on her side, it left me wide open to continue pondering her points in a way that is positive, reflective and even open to change my views. Even Jesus questioned a man, “how does the scripture read to you” confirming that different people read scripture differently. There is one way to heaven, that is Jesus Christ but there are many different ways to Jesus. While there is one Body of Christ, there are a variety of giftings. While there is one people of God with one mission there are many ways to accomplish the one mission.

What if we moved the goalpost? What if our mission was not to convert souls but to love people made in God’s image? what if the goal was not to be right but to be true, what if it wasn’t to win but to understand, what if it’s not to be aligned in theological, doctrinal and social issues, but to speak grace and light into a dark world? Should Christian’s debate yes. with one another, with unbelievers, with all people, but HOW we debate matters and WHY we debate. We have to stop seeing the reason for debate is a win or lose, get them on our side or we get on their side, to see it my way. It’s not about what we say if we present ourselves poorly our behavior will hinder the message.

IN Judaism Debate is not only looked upon as valuable, but highly encouraged as the means in which men arrive at truth, Jesus himself engaged in the social norms of Jewish debate. If we cease from valuing arriving at the truth then we become a society of falsehood and deceit in which we tolerate and accept a world of anti-truth. Everyone brings something of value to the table, when they contribute their view and perspective. We can always learn something from others. If we see debate as a means to arrive at the truth, then we can look favorably on debate and dismiss the idea that it is somehow wrong or sinful to disagree. Disagreement and debate do not have to end in division it can end with a greater understanding of the truth.

war, politics, social justice, liberality and conservatism forms of government and education, freedoms. These seem to be bigger topics of discussion right now. they touch the fringes of our faith beliefs and ideals. The camps are in place, the lines are deep and hard, there is little crossover between the two “sides” these issues are defining us more than Christ, that is sad. There are Christians on both sides of the battle and its forming Identity, where we cast our vote is not who we are. Don’t paint yourself or others into a corner because they happen to watch a certain news channel or vote for a certain politician. We are called as Christ followers to be children of God and to get on HIS side this is where our identity ought to lie and this is how the world ought to see us, we ought to resemble our family and our Father.

In the book of Joshua there was a lot of fighting going on over the land. At one point before battle Joshua is confronted by an angel of the Lord and Joshua says to him First, are you for us or are you for our enemies. The angel’s response was, neither, I am the captain of the Lord’s army. we’re broken and they are broken and neither has the whole truth or the lease on perfection. Maybe Christ’s side sounds like this, your both wrong and your both hurting and sinful and broken and you need to learn to love eachother before you can learn to agree with eachother. We need to die to self-interests. And that might be the most Christ like thing we can do. it doesn’t mean ignoring social ills and politics – it means laying them down.  “This is what I believe and who I am voting for, but it doesn’t define me nor direct me. This is where I stand on abortion or CRT, or vaccinations, but it’s not who I am, nor where I put my hope.”

Division has to do with judgment. In Matthew 25 Jesus is sitting on his throne judging the nations, separating or dividing the goats from the sheep.  When we are divided, we are declaring a judgment in some way on another person. A final declaration, is that our place? NO converse and discourse can be healthy; we can grow, learn and bear fruit from those interactions, as iron sharpens iron so we too can prove valuable in our divergent perspectives, knowledge and experiences. A few helpful actions, seek first to understand. Be humble. Listen well. Stay curious. Remember the goal is Christ not us. Be of the same mind toward one another, that is put on love and the spirit of Grace. You don’t have to have the last word nor do you have to say everything. Less is more. It’s not always easy in the moment when emotions are flying to be humble and stay curious and NOT interrupt; Every conversation ought to be seen as an opportunity to grow and learn, we don’t grow by adopting others political positions we grow when we learn to love, when we learn to understand, to be patient, to be kind, to be direct without an agenda and without fear, regardless of the politics position. Its ok that you believe a certain way, but its also ok that someone else believes a certain way.

Politics create harsh lines but every government is imperfect. world governments will never compare with God’s perfect kingdom nor accomplish God’s perfect will.  Beware politics are becoming the new “religion” for many peoples and has always been in competition with religion and faith. We see Christians putting their political views before brotherhood. Can politicians save us?  can laws and policy legislate a utopian society? no because it is the human heart that is corrupt and it cannot be ruled.

Its valuable to establish where one stands before entering into debate or disagreement, but I don’t think we are called to convince or baptize anyone in regards to such things, we are not witnesses of the democrats or witnesses for the republicans. Vote your convictions, talk about them but we are not to be in the business of shaming others for their views or proving ours righteous. state your convictions simply. And then stop and listen and seek to understand. Reflective listening. Repeat back what they said. I guarantee you will have better conversation when you are relaxed and not emotionally out of control. Your mind will even think with more clarity and precision. We cannot hear one another’s heart if we cannot get past their politics especially when we cast judgments on them simply because of who they voted for. It is my character not my politics that Christ is seeking to change.

I don’t have to fight about it. I don’t have to lecture and explain myself until others agree with my conclusions and views. My job is not to persuade convince and change minds. It’s to love others as Christ has loved me.

Our greatest mission? Its good and worthy to have knowledge in politics and government, but no government or political party is to be our god, and we ought to never permit it to have first place or drive us. Our greatest mission remains to be witnesses for Christ and servants of the highest government where there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. We are citizens first of God’s kingdom so we ought to be first and foremost kingdom minded informed and defined and shaped by the kingdom’s constitution. NOT trying to convince others to believe what that constitution says, but being ourselves changed by it.

Ray Comfort – “in our sincere efforts to convince a sinful world we tend to use intellectual arguments when the ultimate proof is the power of God transforming the human heart. But I did not come to Christ through intellectual arguments and my faith does not stand on human wisdom.”

God is not going to choose which theology best resembles his truth to teach in heaven…nor which politics and laws best align with his word, just like the pharisees and Sadducees and Essenes and romans and crusades and reformers and everyone else, they all FALL SHORT of perfection. When we stand before Christ, I imagine He won’t ask how many did you convert, he won’t ask what political party we joined, what was our position on certain social justice, welfare or religious affiliations, what we believed about a certain doctrine or what news station did we align with? I believe Jesus will ask did you give water to the thirsty, did you do what you believed, did you become what you said you loved did you love? were YOU changed by the truth you said you believed? Were you transformed; not did you transform others; not did you change the world but did you change yourself by the power I gave you in the world? See I don’t believe God has given us the gift of Jesus Christ and the holy spirit to prove ourselves right in the eyes of the world, but to Share the life and love of Jesus Christ with the world.  So by all means let us debate, let us search for truth together but let us wrestle well and love deeply, and so show Christ to the world.

“Lord, give me grace to overcome my natural tendency to argue, which is carnal, and grace to be your mouthpiece not your lawyer. Give me the grace to display Him who is my wonderful counselor for he is the source of all wisdom and knowledge and the sweet persuader of the soul.” Glyn Evans.

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