Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
You could have heard a pin drop. “You disagree with what the Bible says?” a member of our group asked.
“On this matter, yes,” I replied. “I think Paul’s teaching concerning the roles of men and women in the church were appropriate for that time. Enforcing the equality he taught in Galatians would have only created more controversy, and they already had enough of that, considering how counter-cultural Christianity was at that time. I think Paul didn’t want to distract from the Gospel.”
“However,” I continued, “I think we live in a different time. Our society has different cultural and social values than back then. Women have assumed bigger roles, and are proven capable. If we focus on trying to uphold a tradition, we make the same mistake that Paul was trying to avoid.”
Everybody in the room shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Something sacrilegious had been said, but nobody wanted to confront me about it.
Finally, one of the newest members of our small group blurted out what some were thinking. “How can you call yourself a Christian!?” he exclaimed, the anger rising in his voice. He went on to berate me for my lack of faith and my heretical views, concluding by saying I needed to repent for my backsliding.
When I held my ground, he didn’t come back the following week.
He wasn’t truly angry with my viewpoint: he was angry with me for disagreeing.
The view from the road
I wasn’t bothered. I disagree often, and I’m used to being chastised for it.
I have a phrase that I recite often, one which captures my perspective. You’re not wrong, but you’re not right either. When I disagree, I am including knowledge and experiences acquired from walking The Way as I learned to love God and others. My disagreement supplies a potential missing piece to the puzzle. A willingness to initially consider any missing piece, regardless of source, is the pursuit of wisdom. Wisdom includes drawing from many sources, just as love includes respecting all who disagree.
It’s not a question of right and wrong, but a different view from a different angle. Although some truths are definitely right or wrong, much of which we know is relative to the perceiver. You don’t have to agree with me, and that’s the point. If you disagree with me, I will ask you why, listening attentively to what you have to say. Perhaps it is you who has the missing pieces to my puzzle, drawn from your own knowledge and experience.
Some shun this broader pursuit, staying to a more narrow understanding out of fear that they may be led astray and deceived. Preachers reinforce this fear as a means towards keeping their flocks (and their tithes). Yet, these fears are unfounded, as the Proverb says:
My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding
indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding.
He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.
then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
for wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you. (Pr 2:1-11)
The problem, of course, is that religion doesn’t like people who disagree. It never has. Religion seeks to create homogenous views of the world; one right interpretation among a host of wrong interpretations. These interpretations are defended from all challengers, often through a slew of Scripture quotes while unconsciously leaning towards one’s own understanding (Pr 3:5-6).Those who believe, not in God but in their interpretation of God, tend to also believe they are always right: “faith” becomes synonymous with “right”; “righteousness” with ignorance.
This is not seeking truth: it is idolatry, specifically the idolatry of one’s own understanding. All the major religions of the world are guilty of it. Many of the acolytes from each of these religions only seek their conception of God, a worship of one’s understanding without recognizing the lean.
Loving the Lord with all your mind
Jesus said to love the Lord with all your mind (along with the other parts of yourself). Doing this with all of your strength means exercising your mind, not just memorizing Scripture passages. “Give careful thought to your ways” (Hag 1:7), and this means not just challenging your ways, but challenging your thoughts concerning your ways, as well as the thoughts and ways of others.
Healthy disagreement is wrestling with alternative perspectives. When at least one person is engaged in healthy disagreement, then that person gains, even while the other may not. No matter how much you think you know, you can always broaden your perspective a little bit further.
Any change in view is not really important. After all, if God’s thoughts are higher than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9), then whatever your change in view will subsequently be challenged by another view, and still another. There is no end to the enlargement of perception. What is important is the exercise: the strengthening of your mind, by which you will love God more than you did yesterday. The broader the mind, the softer the heart.
Unhealthy disagreement, in contrast, occurs when both parties are not interested in seeking truth, but in defending an ideology or religion. The vast majority of the world’s disagreements fall into this category. Each side is defending their own religion, clinging to that religion like the sides of a lifeboat: the seas of the world are turbulent, and religion is their haven.
This works until another boat (religion) comes along, producing waves in its wake. The fear of capsizing causes many to lash out at the boat threatening their own. They become hardened in their defense, leaning into dogmatism while engaging in schisms, judgment, and scorn. The more narrow the mind, the harder the heart.
Seeking truth means learning to swim. If your boat is capsized, then your boat was not seaworthy to begin with. Most spend their time trying to make their boat more seaworthy. What most don’t realize is that there is no boat that cannot be sunk. It’s called faith for a reason, and that faith means a willingness to swim when religion fails you, even when that religion is based on timeless truth.
If you are focused on loving God with all your mind, then you will be a searcher of truth, and you will not dismiss anything simply because it might capsize your boat. If you combine this search for truth with loving God with all of your heart, you will soon learn that there is nothing to fear from the sea. You will combine the skill of a strong swimmer with a realization that there is no risk of drowning. Perfect love casts out all fear.
In time, you won’t need a boat anymore. You will simply walk on water.
Do you disagree?