Can Christians disagree? 

By Karen McNary, Director of Global Cultural Engagement and Community 

Several years ago, I came across a saying:  

“To live above with saints we love, oh that would be glory. To live below with saints we know, well that’s another story.”    

Living with the saints can be hard. Selfishness. Pride. Division. Even believers struggle to find common ground with one another. 

Conflict among God’s people is not isolated to one culture or even one historical era. Jesus himself was born into an extremely complex culture. Israel was under Roman rule, overburdened by taxes and restricted in religious liberties. Some Israelites, including the Zealots, expected a military-style Messiah to restore Israel’s autonomy by force. As politics divided God’s people, religious leaders varied in their interpretation of God’s Word.   

But instead of just stepping into the fray, Christ invited people to rise above it. At the core of His ministry, He intentionally called 12 men with radically different backgrounds and temperaments. Instead of fitting into the world around Him, Jesus built a new community based on God’s Word and His ministry. And He called it the Kingdom of God. 

In this community, the disciples were invited to learn together and participate with Him in sharing the good news of the gospel.  They were united in their call to follow Jesus, but not always from the same perspective, as we’ll see in our upcoming Matthew study. 

The same can be true for believers today. We answer the call to follow Jesus the same way – by grace through faith. Like the disciples, we bring our personalities, experiences, and worldviews into gospel community. We will likely find ourselves studying and serving in community with people who are very different from one another. And if we are honest, that community is not always comfortable. 

Through Jesus’ relationship with the disciples, we learn some key practices in loving one another amid our differences.  

In the cultural chaos of His day, Jesus spoke life-changing truths.  

How can we respond when we disagree? 

In Jesus’ time, as today, some teachings were just hard to understand. For instance, what did Jesus really mean when He said, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their own dead?” Some people read this literally, others figuratively.  

Or how about Jesus’ lessons in Matthew 13? These simple stories with deep spiritual truths prompted the disciples to ask, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” Like the disciples, we are free to bring our questions before the Lord.  

Jesus’ response to their question in Matthew 13:11 is eye-opening. “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.”  

Jesus tells us that truth is revealed to each of us at different times and in different seasons. With this in mind, we can meet our brothers and sisters in Christ with grace as we trust the Lord to reveal truth in His time. There is room for differences of opinion when Christ is our foundation. We don’t have to carry the burden of argument or debate. Instead, we can pray, discuss and enjoy one another as God completes His unique work in His people. 

What can we do with confusion or disappointment? 

We each enter Christian community with expectations. We expect others to act, think, speak, and relate to us in a certain way. When our expectations aren’t met, it can lead to disappointment, discouragement, even doubt. We may question if we’re in the right place with the right people. 

In Matthew 11, we learn a valuable lesson from John the Baptist. While imprisoned, John sent word asking Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”  I’m sure neither he nor his followers expected a prison stay for John the Baptist. In fact, they probably expected Jesus to release him miraculously.    

Like John, we, too, can bring our questions and disappointments to Jesus. But we are called to hold our expectations loosely. God often answers in unexpected ways. When we humble our hearts before the Lord, we must be willing to listen to how He answers, whether He meets our expectations or not.  

What does Jesus expect of us? 

The Sermon on the Mount, which contains “the Beatitudes,” details how gospel community should work. Here we learn that Jesus is more concerned about heart transformation than He is about behavior modification, like when Jesus says, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” 

Ultimately, through Christ’s forgiveness on the cross, we have the power to forgive one another. Conflict is inevitable. Opinions will differ. But when we are rooted in the gospel, we are united in purpose.  

In His final words to the disciples in Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus said, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” 

Through these words, Christ built His Church when 12 men set aside their differences to pursue a common call. Think about that: God changed the course of human history through 12 people who humbly united around His plan and will. 

As you study Matthew in community, will you take time to pray for your new BSF group? Like the disciples who were called to follow Christ, each member of your group has responded to God’s prompting to study His Word within BSF this year. If we commit to learn from our differences and unite in our common call, we can expect God’s Word to change our hearts and grow our obedience. While it won’t always be easy, we have one another. Most importantly, we have His presence. In Matthew 28:20 Jesus promised, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 

Karen McNary

BSF Director of Global Cultural Engagement and Community 

Karen served as a Children’s Leader, Substitute Teaching Leader, Teaching Leader, Area Personnel and most recently as a Skills Coach for BSF prior to joining the staff in April 2021. Sheis originally from Louisville, Ky. and for the past 20 years has called  Charlotte, NC home.  She has been married to her husband, Keith, for  27 years, and together they parent three three young adult sons who attended the BSF School Program for many years.

 

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319 Comments

  1. Wonderful piece. So relevant to our struggling world today. As I see prophecy unfold, it is so important to focus on what unites us, which is the gospel. We must not cling to the expectation of others but rather the promises of God. Thank you for sharing this truthful insight.

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  2. That was a terrific blog. We can unify and make community alive through the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank you.

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  3. Carol,

    Thank you for your encouragement as i begin a study in Matthew. Learning to disagree with a God- like response I think is not only expected by our Lord but attainable with support, growth in His Word, as I learn to be submissive to His Word, obedient, and humble as He guides me.

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  4. Karen your article was inspiring, I loved the saying you shared because it is so true and it made me laugh. BSF is the best Bible Study I have ever taken part in and no matter what you think you know there is always more to learn.

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  5. Such encouraging words for our year ahead. “God changed the course of human history through 12 people who humbly united around His plan and will.” May we be open and submit to God’s plan for us through our study in Matthew.

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  6. Thanks for this article, it’s always wise to remember that we are all one in Christ and that there are differing opinions because we all have different walks and none of us are growing in our faith at the same rate!

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    • That’s right Gayle. We all grow differently and we must extend the same grace Jesus extends to us.

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  7. Thank you for sending me the message and please continue to send the lecture content for me. I would like to participate to the online lecture course I find difficulty in participating the venue lecture.

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    • Hi Irene!

      Are you looking to join a BSF online group? If so, you can use this site to find a group/time that works for you! https://www.bsfonline.org/

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  8. First, I say that I am grateful to be able to participate in this online lesson this season. I am a believer that accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and after Baptism I grew up telling others to learn more. I still can learn more and that is my goal as this season is present. I look forward to the classes to understand, grow and share. May we all be safe, grounded and following Christ’s examples.

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  9. Hi Karen,
    Thank you so much for this blog about Can Christian’s disagree?
    Jesus showed up in an unexpected way for me through this blog. Thank you for your encouragement and help. Praise God!

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  10. This year I expect God to change my heart and to grow my obedience. The reading of this blog gives me insight in how to better frame my prayers for the BSF Group that I belong to and BSF as a whole. This blog blessed my heart. May God richly bless you.

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  11. thank you so much, Ienjoyed reading.

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  12. Thanks so much for sharing God’s truth from your heart. This particularly resonates for me as a ne OGL this year. I am leading some new ladies, and some I was in a group with.

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  13. Thank you Karen for the thought provoking blog. The tips and tools you provided will help me in my walk with the Lord and how to build community with fellow Christians. We are all different and unique, but we have one common call to build God’s kingdom on earth through us who call him Lord.

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  14. Thank you Karen. Continue your wonderful spirit lead teaching ability.
    May God richly bless you.

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  15. The part about our expectations really hit me. “Hold them loosely.” This is so good, Karen. Thanks for sharing.

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  16. My love of God’s word brings me to BSF every year. My study of Matthew will give me many invites into the life and death of Jesus. He suffered so much to save us from sin. I cry every time I read about it.

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  17. Wonderful explanation.I should be looking and asking The Holy Spirit, Wonderful Counsellor, to help me search my heart if there be any hardness that He can help me resolve.
    Renew my life Lord Jesus Christ
    Amen

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  18. Excellent article!!!

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  19. Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed what you had to say. God bless you.

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  20. Thank you so much, Karen for your blog. I enjoyed it so much👏🏽🙏🏽❤️☮️

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  21. Karen, your words are very clear. I’m looking forward to understanding more deeply

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  22. EXCELLENT blog Karen! Thank you so very much. You have really given me something to think about and USE. In fact, your blog has already helped me with a little nuisance that has been nagging me in my BSF leadership. God is SOOOO wonderful! I pray that I can truly imprint what you have shared on my heart and use it for all times. I have been praying and asking God to help me to be more hospitable. Your blog has given me a step toward improving on my fruit of long suffering and gentleness. I need help in these areas so much. Again, thank you.

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    • I’m so glad God used this blog. He will honor your desire to exhibit long suffering and gentleness.

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  23. Beautiful and inspiring synopsis of Matthew and our current world at large. Very thought provoking and it propeled my continuing Christian and child of God self-introspection. Thank you!

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  24. What an encouragement. Thank you for your words, they challenge me to stay focused on Him, not the diference of opinion there are, especially in todays climate.

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  25. I greatly appreciate your insightful and encouraging words of wisdom.
    I’m looking forward to much growth, fellowship, and inspiration this year
    studying Matthew with my BSF ladies.
    Thanks for your post Karen.

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  26. So excellent. Thank you for the encouragement, and for such good words to use in my life.

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  27. Thank you Karen! Can I translate for Portuguese speakers?

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    • Dear Alexandre, we would love for you to share Karen’s post! This is such great wisdom for all of us

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  28. Thank you Karen! Your blog is very intersting and encouraging! Glory to God!

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  29. Thank you Karen for your inspiring blog containing words of wisdom re learning to live with differences in expectations re study fellowship groups. Christ teaches us to be humble & to love one another.

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  30. Thank you for these Spirit led words of encouragement. Especially as we find ourselves in a new conflict involving vaccinations! I wrote your words in my journal just now. “When we are rooted in the Gospel, we will be united in purpose.” AMEN!

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    • As I was reading this blog I was reminded of a conversation that I just had this morning with a dear friend regarding vaccines. And I too appreciated these encouraging words. I will send along this blog to my friend who is also in need of support.
      Blessings

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  31. The Word of the Lord thru you – humbles me as I endeavor to lead in this study – those of my Family given to me, from past Seasons and those introduced this Season. May I shepherd/lead/exemplify, walking in “not my will, but God’s Way be followed.”

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  32. Great message. I was blessed by what you wrote.

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  33. Girl! Loved your blog. How happy I was to scroll down and see your picture. It made me laugh out loud in joy/ for you are my sister in Christ. Remember me/ Ginnie Oswald/ group facilitator/ Salisbury evening group/ now in Winston. Blessings

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    • Hey Ginnie! I do remember you and I’m thankful you’re still connected with BSF.

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    • Your love for the Body of Christ is clearly evident my sister! He has made you a nurturer to ensure the spiritual health of His chosen. You are appreciated. Leon

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  34. Hello Karen! thank you for this excellent blog post! I am especially taken by the line “We are called to hold our expectations loosely” So good and so hard!

    I also love the line that “Jesus is more interested about heart transformation than behavior modification” It is so easy to focus on looking good, rather than the painful looking inward to our deep thoughts that come out of our heart and never make it to the surface, letting Christ transform our heart, and acting in community from that place.

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  35. That was so well said , Karen
    Thank you for your insight into relationships and how Jesus related to others , all of whom he loved .

    Reply

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