The issues are many! And it’s going to be even more challenging as we move toward another election cycle in November. Everywhere we look, there is disagreement. Require masks, don’t require masks. Stay out of the public, go back to a more normal life. Send the kids back to school, keep our kids home for online school. Vote Democrat, vote Republican. Repost Black Lives Matter statements, repost Blue Lives Matter messages. Return to gathering as a church, stay with online church. Stop sports to make a statement on racism, keep the race issue out of sports. The issues are too many to list.
I watch people rant on social media about all of the above and more and then make statements like, “if you disagree with me, unfriend me.” I have a hard time grasping how we have moved from the “let’s agree to disagree” mindset I grew up with. Since when is friendship based on looking, acting and thinking alike? I didn’t agree with all my elementary, middle, high school or college friends. I don’t agree with the political leanings of my best friend. We vote different. I don’t fully agree with his theological leanings. But we are never disagreeable.
People have always disagreed. On many issues. That is not the problem. Disagreeableness is the problem. Our dictionaries define disagreeable as “not pleasant or enjoyable, unfriendly and bad-tempered.” Similar words to disagreeable are listed with the definition: unpleasant, displeasing, nasty, horrible, dreadful, ill-tempered, ill-natured, horrid or curmudgeonly. Since when did it become normal to have an unpleasant, nasty, ill-tempered approach to our relationships? Therein lies the issue. It’s fine to disagree. That’s normal. It’s not okay to be disagreeable.
Being disagreeable is just plain bad-mannered and rude, according to the definitions. So, help me to understand, is there ever a time and place where it is okay to be nasty, ill-tempered and horrible? While we are at the grocery store and someone forgets the directional arrows on the aisle floor? While driving? On Facebook? At work? With my spouse or kids at home? When is it an appropriate time for us to be dreadful, horrible, and displeasing? In reality, this kind of behavior is simply an indication of emotional and relational immaturity.
As a chaplain and pastor for the past four decades, I look at this problem through the lens of the Bible. Here is a poignant scripture that pictures a self-centered life and the transformation that begins when we choose a God-focused life.
“You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him… 12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:7-14 (NLT).
God will always give us His strength and His power to live out His calling. But it only happens when we intentionally exhale our self-centered nature and gratefully inhale His new nature, day after day, hour after hour, minute by minute, one circumstance or situation at a time. It’s the only way that I’ve found to live a life that disagrees with many but rarely is disagreeable with any. May God also give you such grace for your journey.