Can you disagree and remain friends? It’s a question I’m regularly asked especially when the debate gets a little heated on social media. My answer to the question is, “Well, yes & no” because it depends on several variables.
It depends on the importance of what you disagree about. For example, I have a shirt that I refer to as “my pink shirt”, but Christie assures me it’s salmon. Now to me salmon is a fish, not a colour but does it really matter? Of course not. Some things we can disagree on because they really don’t matter.
Some people can’t handle disagreement, and they take it personally especially if it’s a hot topic linked to their values, worldview, or theological position! Others either argue or withdraw. Those who quarrel sometimes find it hard to allow others to hold a point of view that is different to their own. They debate to convince the other person that they need to change their opinion. When this doesn’t happen, the argumentative person can become angry, frustrated or withdraw. Remaining friends with people like that is difficult. That’s why the Bible teaches, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
It also depends on how you define the word “friends”. For example, at the time of writing, I have 4857 Facebook friends (plus 4381 followers on my public figure page). Add to that the number of people who connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, and I’d need to hire out the Melbourne Convention Centre and have a couple of sittings to fit everyone in. But are these people really friends? I don’t know, I haven’t met most of them.
I’m happy for these “friends” to comment and disagree, but what about when they’re continually disagreeable? Interestingly, one of the synonyms for “disagreeable” is “unfriendly”. I try and be patient and kind towards these people by first sending them a private message asking them to run their comments through the fruit of the Holy Spirit (you know, things like kindness, self-control, and gentleness). If they persist with their unpleasant behaviour, I warn them publicly. After that, if they continue to offend, they are blocked or removed. I refuse to allow such people the privilege of using my platform to air their nastiness. The fact is you probably can’t remain friends with some friends who are not really friends at all.
Can you disagree and remain friends? Yes, most of the time if you disagree clearly. State your opinion but don’t force it on others. Don’t see your goal in life as converting other people to your way of thinking. Allow others the freedom of seeing things differently to you.
Christian unity is not the same as uniformity. The Bible uses the word “harmony” to express the proper functioning of a church community. Harmony occurs when different notes sound pleasing when they are played simultaneously. Playing the same note over and over is boring. Christians need to be in unity about the truths around salvation (as summarised in The Apostles’ Creed), but then they should be able to disagree about other things without breaking a friendship. We shouldn’t have to be in total agreement on every issue to maintain harmony.
Christians have differed about lots of things over the centuries, and nothing has changed. We still disagree about theological and ethical issues as well as church practice:
- Is baptism by full immersion or sprinkling?
- Should women be allowed to teach in the church?
- Was the earth created in six literal days?
- Is hell really eternal torture?
- Is the Bible the inerrant word of God?
- Is it alright for divorced people to remarry?
- Is it okay for two people of the same gender to marry?
- Does the book of Revelation deal with the past or the future?
- Which political party should I vote for?
- What is the correct day to worship on?
- Should we use grape juice or wine for communion?
- Should Christians eat deviled eggs?
You get the picture! Christians disagree about lots of things, but none of the above effect a person’s salvation so why can’t we hold opposing views and remain friends?
It’s sad that, before I publish a blog or comment on social media these days I have to ask myself the question, am I prepared to lose friends over this? Why can’t we respectfully disagree without breaking a friendship? In fact, if you never have a conflict, you’re probably not experiencing genuine community, and your “peaceful” life could just be a sign that your existence has become stagnant.
Do Unto Others
Learn to disagree kindly and to differ without being unpleasant. Avoid hurtful or personal comments and shun putting others down to lift yourself up.
Can you disagree and remain friends? Well, yes and no. But if you want to stay friends, and the friendship is genuine, then the friendship is more important than disagreement.
(Take some time this week to read Romans 14 and notice all the helpful points the apostle Paul makes in helping the church work through disagreements).
Feature image – Even best friends have disagreements from time to time – Mark Binzegger