We have all seen it happen – 2 friends or maybe even spouses begin to irritate each other more than help each other. I’ve often pondered how a relationship can slide into a downward spiral and the parties not even know it. Personally, having observed this recently in two friends of mine, I believe if the two people were at one time very close and now are not, then actually the beginning of that slippery slope is in fact noticeable. Whether the person involved want to acknowledge it remains to be seen. The root problem in coming to grips with such disparity is the same root problem with almost all sin, selfishness.
It’s not just about handling disagreements with tact, it’s about growing in our maturity and love for that person as opposed to growing into our own selfish shell. Ironically, and unfortunately, the older we get the more brittle we become in our reactions, the more tedious, stubborn, and fragile.
Speaking of being selfish – what about me? What responsibility does the observing third party have? Disagreements have a strange way of inviting observers to pick sides. Don’t pass judgment on disputable matters (Rom. 14:1). We must be aware of our human nature to get involved, especially emotionally, and even act as a jury or judge. I appreciate Beth Moore’s comments on this, “When it becomes a personal issue, we will start attacking one another. Part of our spiritual maturity is risking our position in favor of the will and glory of God. Let’s be willing to allow Him to shed light on any selfish or worldly motive.”
Admittedly, both sides of most disagreements have strengths and weakness, which means there is no air-tight slam dunk case. Nevertheless, any disagreement can lead to a serious, permanent rift in a relationship.
The bottom line in every disagreement and rift is that we cannot, as ambassadors of Christ, allow it to thwart the work of God (good thing unity is not necessarily uniformity – cf. Acts 4:32-35). But what about the Paul and Barnabas “split” in Acts, can we find support for that same result in our own disagreements? Often differences erupt due to less noble motivations, two opinionated people unwilling to budge. Sometimes we believe that conviction is the motivation for our differing views, that is until we allow God to reveal our selfishness or unwillingness to change. Unless we invite God to come to the rescue, the results can be disastrous. Ministries and partnerships often divide and dwindle rather than divide and multiply.