Last week I looked across my teaching podium to my high school students and said, “I never thought a global pandemic would split churches, divide families, splinter relationships.”
But it has.
We can sit in the “How did we get here?” question, and that’s a good question to ask. But today I want to ask the next question: what now?
There’s a new reality in our teams, our families, our best-friend groups, our churches: a reality of disagreement. I changed cultures mid-pandemic and boy-oh-boy did my host culture handle things differently from my passport culture. My experiences overseas formed my initial thoughts, thoughts that can sometimes make me feel like an outsider.
But among this strange season of disagreement, maybe we have a gift: perspective.
There are people whom I love dearly with whom I can no longer say, “I agree 100% with your ideas.” That’s strange.
But there’s something sweet in it too.
I can still say, “I agree 100% with what actually, truly, 100% does matter.”
Maybe COVID-19 and a world in crisis is teaching us to put first things first. To put aside our need to fully agree on what’s here and now and to emphasize the oneness and bond we know in Jesus.
The Apostles knew their share of sharp disagreements. Scripture tells us of some, and our imaginations can bring more to the forefront. What really do you think it was like for tax-collector Matthew and hot-tempered Peter to share a loaf of bread? I imagine that certain conversation topics brought heated opinions and raised voices to the twelve. This crew almost certainly disagreed on many, many things, but found unity on what really mattered.
But that didn’t deter Jesus from choosing an unlikely, misfit kind of bunch to be His own. This motley crew not only knew close fellowship and communion while Jesus walked this earth, but they were the band of brothers spreading His Good News after He left. I believe in His choosing of the twelve, he was not only considering who would follow Him well while He was here, but who would do that well after His departure.
And He chose a widely diverse crowd to be the first church, the first Gospel-formed family, the first Jesus team.
Not long later, the book of Acts records a “sharp disagreement” that split the power-partners Paul and Barnabas. Not a little friendly bump in the road, but actually a disagreement strong enough to have two companions part ways. But what happened? The Gospel advanced all the more. Paul taking Silas one direction and Barnabas traveling another way with John Mark.
Both still Gospel focused with Jesus vision in their hearts.
Maybe we need to learn to disagree like they did.
Not always by literally walking in different directions (although there is a time for that), but by keeping first things first.
So what are the first things?
Let’s start with three:
Christ is King. No matter what the world throws our way, His Lordship cannot be taken away. I can agree with any Christ follower on that one.
Christ loves His church. Somehow it has become mostly cool to bash other believers these days, to point out their hypocrisy and place blame at their feet. But this is such counter-Gospel thinking. Uniting on this can keep so many other petty things at bay.
Christ is sovereign over this moment in history. He’s placed you on your team for right now for a reason: to refine, restore, and redeem you. Stick together through the hard, keeping this in mind: you are sanctifying one another, even through your disagreements.
In Jason Gray’s song “Learning to be Found,” he calls for vulnerability in community through these words:
So don’t be scared now to confess what you’re afraid we won’t understand
Cause you are safe here, where the broken take the broken by the hand.
I love that imagery. The broken taking the broken by the hand. And this level of communal love comes following a level of vulnerability that holds a fear of being misunderstood.
Don’t be afraid of your team, your family, your church. Don’t be afraid to disagree. But always always always keep the first things first… Christ is king, He loves His church, and He is sovereign over this moment.
You can hang your hat on first-things-first things.
What first things do you keep at the forefront of relationships? How has this been refined or restored in the last year?