By Dr. Aresia Watson
Ephesians 4:1-1 "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord,
beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation
wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness,
with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;"
In a previous devotional, I mentioned how we need to cheer on the home team, and by that I meant our local church. The truth is that we will have different opinions. At a time when relationships are being quickly fractured over varying opinions, we need to look for ways to build each other up in strength and unity. Below are some points that I have pondered and tried to practice. I am definitely still a work in progress, but as someone who is highly opinionated, I’m hoping my life lessons can be an encouragement to others.
Recognize that we are of the same mind in Christ, or at least we should be. This was the admonition that Paul gave to Euodias and Syntyche. That is our bond of unity. That is our joy of fellowship. There should be nothing more important than recognizing that it is a personal repentance of our sin and belief in the finished work of God the Son that brings us together and gives us strength to face adversity.
The Bible teaches that the tongue is an unruly evil. With today’s technology, this truth applies to what our fingers type as well! We need to learn how to have conversations with people who hold a different opinion. This can be very difficult on social media, messaging, texting, etc. where tone is almost impossible to accurately convey. Is divulging your opinion on social media worth the destruction of unity within the church? If you cannot have a conversation in person, consider not having a conversation at all. And, when you do have a conversation – listen. I have learned so much when I have conversations with those who hold different opinions on topics than I do. Sometimes I even end up changing my opinion (gasp!!). Other times, I keep my opinion but recognize the reasons for the other opinion is valid.
Know what is a “hill to die on” and what is not. There are plenty of topics that we can have opinions on, but they really are just that – opinions. There are other topics that are specifically addressed by Scripture where what we hold to is not an opinion, but a Bible-based truth that we must take a stand for. Think mask wearing versus the definition of marriage. People have strong “opinions” on both of these, but only one issue is specifically addressed in Scripture. When we have discussion on Bible-based truths, we still need to do so carefully. If you win an argument but lose the person, ultimately you have lost. The point it, use discernment to recognize what type of discussion you are having – but always recognize that you are having a discussion with another image-bearer of the Creator. He loves you both so much He died for you. Recognizing that similarity (addressed in point one) can do a lot to smooth over differences.
Romans 1:16; Galatians 6: 10; Ephesians 6:18
Look for ways to lift others up. Providing verbal compliments goes a long way! I know that is easier for some than others, but it will almost always reap great dividends. I have purposefully tried to practice this more recently when out and about. Telling a cashier that he or she is doing a great job has always been greeted with a big smile. Give a gift to someone you know you have some differences with. This may be something like a plate of cookies or a kitchen towel set. It doesn’t have to be extravagant—just something to let them know you appreciate your bond in Christ. Pray for others in the church. Pray that God will bless them. Pray that God will comfort them. We get so focused on our own burdens we forget others are carrying their own. If you know a specific need, then pray for that specific need. If possible, pray with other church member. Coming before the throne of God together is an incredible gift God has given to us and it is one that allows us to get to know other church members in a way that is very personal. It is really hard to dislike people that you are purposefully praying for or praying with.
These are just a few thoughts to encourage each of us on ways we can cheer on the home team and work to continue to grow together in unity and love in the body of believers called the church.
*This post is part 2 of a 2-part series. You can read Part 1 here: "Sorry, Rooting for the Home Team"