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Can Christians agree to disagree?

“I believe in God, but I don’t know if I believe everything in the Bible. Is that okay?”

Kayla sat across from me, her hands rubbing together as if she were cold. She wiggled uncomfortably and shifted her weight back and forth, something I wouldn’t have thought anything of if it were December. But it was the middle of July and ninety degrees in the shade which told me that she wasn’t actually chilly. She was nervous. She was admitting something that she’d most likely been holding onto for a while, something that she was worried would not only change the way I thought about her, but also the state of her soul. And rightfully so.

The Bible is the infallible word of God, right? To believe in God means believing everything in the Bible, doesn’t it? I used to struggle with the same thoughts. I used to wonder if believing in God meant that you have to believe in a young earth or a big flood. And while I remember wanting desperately to believe those things, I had a hard time with it at first. I felt bad. Just like Kayla felt bad. Then I met a pastor who worked part-time as a professor at the college I was attending.

Professor Williams is a no-nonsense kind of guy, so when he stopped our class right in the middle of a discussion about baptism and drew a bullseye on the board, every student in the room paid close attention. The professor had overheard something that concerned him. Two students were arguing about what saves a person, neither of them backing down until we all sat in silence staring at the white board.

“The Bible tells us that there is one thing, and one thing only that saves a person,” Professor Williams said. “What is it?”

A few hands went up, and someone in the back of the room called out, “Belief in Jesus.”

“Right!” The professor drew a cross in the middle of the bullseye. “There is only this one thing in the center. But there are other rings.” He explained that the second ring represented things that were also biblical, and were probably good ideas like baptism, prayer, and communion. While good ideas, these things aren’t necessary for salvation.

After that, he explained the third ring. He wrote words like infant baptism, old earth vs young earth, and eating pork. The list of terms defining that last ring was by far the longest. They were all things that people associate with faith, but again, they were not a prerequisite for eternity.

The professor stood for a moment letting us all absorb the lesson. Then he reminded us that far too often people try to take something from the second ring and put it in the first ring, or something from the third ring into the second. And we wind up arguing about things that don’t really matter. “Jesus is what matters. He is and will always be the only thing at the center. Everything else, whether it’s a good idea, or speculative faith talk cannot take the place of Jesus.”

From that moment on, I cut myself a break. I decided that the things I had felt bad about were not as important as the one thing I was absolutely sure of: Christ. And I decided that another person’s beliefs about the outer rings were not as important as their belief in the bullseye.

I shared this story with Kayla, and it was amazing to see her entire being relax. I imagined that I must have looked the same way sitting in the third row from the front of the class, staring hopefully at an illustration that served as a wake-up call.

Here’s the truth: It is also possible to love God and love people even while disagreeing.

For me, and for Kayla, putting Christ back in the center of the bullseye, and keeping all the rest in its proper place provided immense peace. If this is something that you’ve struggled with, I hope it brings you peace as well.

What do you think? Is it okay for Christians to agree to disagree?

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Showing 9 comments
  • Mark Peyron

    We are human and will naturally sometimes disagree . It should be much easier to admit to ourselves and to others that our planks in our own eye (no pun intended ) should be easier to see when we are maturing in Christ JESUS, who absolutely must have preeminence in us.

  • Jeff Titterington

    Yes, we can and should. I heard a pastor say something like: “As I got older I found there are fewer things that I’m sure of – but I’m more and more certain of those.”

  • Mark Peyron

    We are human and will naturally sometimes disagree . It should be much easier to admit to ourselves and to others that our planks in our own eye (no pun intended ) should be easier to see when we are maturing in Christ JESUS, who absolutely must have preeminence in us. When we finally allow Christ Jesus preeminence in us, ring one and two are not worth the time to disagree about.

  • Dorothy Davy

    I’m often times not even aware of the plank in my eye, all I seem to see is what is wrong with that person,
    how do I overcome this?

    I’m aware that I don’t walk alone, and that The Precious Jesus is always there but I’m not aware of Him.
    I do talk to Him but not as much as I need too, or need to.

    Love the daily message of Jesus & about Jesus, and what I must do to be more in touch with Him.

    • Rebbekka

      Sometimes the answer is to simply ask God to reveal what’s in your own heart. More often than not, the plank in my eye is the act of judging others. One of the greatest lessons I’ve received from God came when I was angry at a group of people for not being Christlike. I typed an article on how we, as Christians need to be loving, and I pointed fingers at those who weren’t. Then, just as I was about to hit “send,” God intervened, and his message was loud and clear. I was being unloving to those I thought were unloving. I was judging them rather than coming beside them to pursue Christ. I was grateful for the lesson, and I learned that if we remain open to what God wants to do in our hearts, he will reveal what we need to work on.

  • Andrew

    I think it is possible. This is the same message I received recently when I read Romans Chapter 14.

  • Ed

    I have planks in both eyes but as I have aged and studied the bible, listened to various experts, and learned how to read the bible and try to understand its wisdom i can’t discount anything in it. Even if i can’t understand it all until I go home to the Lord. Gods Word IS infallible. It’s up to us to have faith in it…once we start picking and choosing what to believe we dilute it’s wisdom and open ourselves up to Satans lies

  • Phil Tegtmeier

    In John 17 Jesus prays for us to be one. Being of one belief requires agreement particularly about the fundamentals of our Christian faith. To make disciples of all nations (as we are commanded to do) we must be able to articulately defend a unified faith. I agree that belief in Jesus is the core of our faith. But we need more common ground than that to make a compelling case to a non-Christian.

  • Rest

    Although I know we have to agree to disagree at times, even the beliefs in the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th ring of that bullseye tell us our worldview. Our worldview will define everything else in life. So while salvation might not rely on whether we live in a young earth or old earth, it will shape everything we see the lens of life through. Those two differing beliefs right there in my example are from two different worldviews and the way we will address, respond or see anything else in life even in the bible.

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