July 2, 2014—We are definitively in a season of disagreement. On any given day, I might drop just a few otherwise neutral words onto social media about the latest Supreme Court rulings, or decisions made at the General Assembly of the PC(USA), or even the World Cup. (We can’t even agree whether to call it soccer or football!) Rather immediately, I can expect to see my newsfeed light up with reactions from many sides—some facetious, but many filled with bitterness.
I am aware that people will likely disagree with me, and I can accept that. My biggest fear is that my friends, who often don’t know each other, may be hurtful as they engage the issue rather than the person. I generally have a policy for my little space on social media that we welcome intelligent disagreement, but will not tolerate rudeness, disrespect, or otherwise hurtful comments.
But we are passionate people, myself included. I want to be right. I strive to be thoughtful. And yet, I wonder sometimes, “What if Jesus disagrees with me?”
At first blush, it is a question of humility recognizing that I may not understand the whole issue. Of course, anyone who thinks God agrees with them on everything should take time to read scripture more carefully. Yet, politicians, pastors, communicators, and others expect and are expected to have an accurate “professional opinion” on everything under the sun. That’s just not realistic.
More importantly for me, this is really a question about how I treat the person on the other side of the argument. How would I treat Jesus if he were arguing with me? Would I respond like a Pharisee with disdain? Maybe more like Nicodemus in his confusion? Or perhaps like Thomas with his doubts and questions?
I respect that there are strong feelings around these issues, especially where the fair treatment of others is concerned. And while there is a place for anger, we still must be careful not to cross over into hatred. We need to ask ourselves, “Is our dialog contributing toward a healthy, humanizing, and holistic public square?”
Our society has become extremely polarized in recent years as evidenced by snap polls, political maps and divisive rhetoric. We expect more of our leaders, yet here we struggle to do any better on Facebook and Twitter.
I expect from time to time people may disagree with an article or two from this blog or our Vantage magazine. As the editor, I am more concerned that each article model engagement with God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and God’s people in a way that is honest, caring, and constructive. Hopefully, we are building a larger table for diverse community, rather than polarizing and segmenting people into secret groups.
There will be a day when I stand before God. I expect that I will have been wrong about many things. I accept that Jesus will disagree with me–and that I will have been wrong. Though if I have been faithful in anything, I hope that Jesus will find that I have been good in my care for others with whom I disagree. May it be so, that in my desire to defend the civil rights of others with my arguments, that I will be redemptive even in the manner with which I argue.
Michael Thompson is the Director of Communications for Columbia Theological Seminary. He has contributed articles to Comment Magazine and Q Ideas. He oversees both print and electronic communications including social media, the website, and Vantage magazine.