Disagreement and conflict is a fact of life. Everyone has their own view of the world, and many of us want to share that view with others. One of the real, ongoing difficulties in any church is where those different viewpoints rub against each other in the decisions that we have to make, causing friction, sparks and the occasional fire!
How we deal with difficult and contentious issues is therefore one of the great skills of a healthy and harmonious life. I was born with a natural desire to sort out the truth of the world and spend time thinking it all through. In that process, I used to spend a lot of time arguing with people (either out loud, or in my head) to convince them that I was right. Somehow this very seldom seemed to work. I’ve realised more recently that people seem to be convinced by what I do rather than what I say, and that I don’t actually know as much as I thought I did.
There are lots of issues around where we will disagree quite strongly. We think of course of the question of marriage in our wider society which is about as polarised as an issue can get. There are also more simple things like matters of taste in music that are very different between people and groups within the church. But this Sunday we’re looking at the issue of what the Bible (particularly Ephesians 5-6) says about how we should live in relationships, an issue that I’ve had more arguments about than any other in my time in ministry. We are going to have a more open time in our 10am service this Sunday about answering particular questions on this issue – not because I have all the answers or want to argue my case so that people agree with me, but because listening and conversation is the way that we actually understand what other people value and why they hold the beliefs that they do. No-one will listen to us until we listen to them.