Agreeing in Disagreement is not the same as Agreeing to Disagree


These days, it seems people will argue about fine points of interpretation when it comes to the Bible, and are willing to die on the hills of things that aren't really central to having a growing, healthy relationship with Christ. Even worse, we may die silently on those hills, quietly ignoring or writing off those with whom we disagree.

I should know. I've been there.

A better way forward is to find out what we agree on, and forge a path to the truth from that point, together

This was illustrated well in a discussion I had with some friends on Demons (particularly Mark 5:1-12). We came from different perspectives on the issue of what demons are, and this could have potentially brought the discussion off the rails, degrading it into an argument over word meanings and semantics, but it didn't.

Two Paths to the Same Destination

A few of us reasoned that the Bible's labeling of things as demonic was at least partly due to the ancient world's lack of understanding about the complexity of physical causes to illness (i.e. genetics). Through scientific study, we are able to treat many illnesses that people in Bible times may have simply labelled 'demonic'. Thus, we drew a conclusion that God could have simply been speaking in a language which was universally understood at the time. This doesn't make it any less true that there was something not right about the man who 'hurt himself with stones' and 'lived among the tombs'.  We would just tend to categorize his problem medically rather than spiritually. But, it also doesn't change the fact that this particular man's problems were spiritual at the core.

Others of us reasoned that the Bible's talk about demons was just that: talk about literal, spiritual entities called demons which infect people's minds or bodies with all sorts of infirmities and sickness; mental, physical and spiritual. What we couldn't see from this viewpoint was whether or not all physical and metal illnesses are spiritual in nature or caused by demonic activity.

We fundamentally disagreed with one another on what the Bible means by what it says. Arguably, those who reasoned that the Bible means what it says and says what it means were keeping with orthodox interpretive tradition, while the rest were perhaps over-allegorizing the texts to suit our modern sensibilities. At least this is one way to look at it.

Another way of looking at it is that since we are reading a translation of the Bible, and since we have little cultural context to draw understanding of how the Hebrews, or Jesus for that matter, thought about demons, it's benign to argue about it.

But this was not our focus. Our focus was to find our common ground and move from there. We realized through our safe, open communication, that in this discussion about Demons, there is the potential for a significant amount of speculation to happen on both sides.

Deep Relationship

We agreed that if someone is sick, it would be highly inappropriate for us to automatically conclude that they must have dropped their spiritual guards and let a demon in.  On the other hand, we also acknowledged that some problems really do have a spiritual root - it's just that this root cause may be hidden under a mountain of other things. Therefore, we reasoned that some medical or physical problems really could be spiritual in nature, while others could not be. In fact, we could say that two different people with the same outward problems could have completely different root causes. 

Understanding the difference between root causes is not a matter of knowing the facts and points about what the bible (or a medical textbook) says about various topics. Rather, this wisdom can only come from the context of a Christ-centered relationship in which you really get to know someone. This takes guts, honesty, and a kind of authenticity which our culture tends to scoff at. But it is this kind of relationship that can much better reveal the deeper issues (or at least point you in the right direction to find answers) to surface problems, and it doesn't require casting judgement to do so!

Cover-ups

Its in our nature to cover things up (which is why deep relationships are so important!). A core spiritual problem could get hidden behind anger or bitterness, which could then be hidden by some sort of destructive habit or way of being in the world, which could then develop into some sort of physical illness. For example, you may develop problems in your arms and wrists from using the computer too much, which may be a result of your overuse of facebook, which may be a result of your insecurity at facing relationships in-person, which may be a result of something one of your friends said to you five years ago, which had brought up the fundamental spiritual question: Who am I?

We live in a world that is both beautiful and broken. We are part of an ecosystem that is marred by death,  and yet teems with life. There is so much in the world that can make us bleed, yet by the blood of Christ, we have been redeemed (Ephesians 1:7-8).

These paradoxes show us that casting quick judgments about the root causes of things is a dangerous venture, and might even reveal a lot about our own level of insecurity, fear or anxiety. But what we can do is encourage one another to keep ourselves standing on the firm foundation of Christ because our identity is firmly in the hands of Christ. We can therefore be single minded, not allowing anything in that doesn't sound like Jesus. There are many other 'voices' and influences around telling us who we should be or who we are ,so we need to really know who Jesus is and who we are in him. In this way, we may have eyes to see and ears to hear the voice of Jesus in both the most likely, and even the most unlikely places.

This is a hill we can call our own. 

But for too many of us, we sound eerily like the demon-possessed man in Mark 5. Jesus asks him, "What is your name?" and the man responds, "My name is Legion, for we are many." We may not have actual voices in our heads telling us stuff (voices is a synecdoche). We may be simply allowing a great many people who aren't in tune with Christ to dictate who we are for us.

So ...

What is your name?

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