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How to Let the Gospel

Drive Your Disagreements


Part 2

Remember God Gave


YOU
TWO Ears and ONE Mouth
Gospel-Driven Disagreements, Part 1 1 Rob Wilkrson
Introduction

The greatest mistake we make when we find ourselves either approaching or already embroiled
in a disagreement is opening our mouths too soon. There’s an old saying which reminds us that
God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason, namely to teach us that we should listen
twice as much as we talk. Instead, most of us make the immediate assumption that we are
right, and the other person is wrong. So we ask little if any questions, and presume we have
already concluded what the real issue is, choosing to argue from there. When the other person
doesn’t agree with us we do several things.

 We say what we said again, thinking that if we repeat ourselves, they will get it and
agree with us.
 We say what we said one more time, but a little louder, thinking that if the noise level of
our viewpoint increases in their ears and head, they will get it and agree with us.
 We say what we said one more time, but a little louder, and with anger, thinking that if
they see how passionate we are about what we think, they will get it and agree with us.
 We say what we said one more time, a little louder, with anger, and with bitter closure,
thinking that if they see how hurt we are, they will see how wrong they were and how
right we are, and get it and agree with us.

The root issue here in this kind of response to disagreement is pride and selfishness. WE want
to be right. We WANT to be right. And we want to be RIGHT. A heart that is filled with pride
hates to be wrong…ever. So they feel the incessant need to explain away what they have done,
or to surround what they’ve done with excuses and reasons, or they talk someone to death.
The cure here for this poisonous root of pride is…humility.

 Those who are humble don’t instantaneously assume they are the ones who are right in
a disagreement, because they assume they don’t know everything, and therefore have
something to learn.
 They don’t feel the need to repeat themselves, because they believe that once they
have made their case or argument, it is time to listen to the other person’s point of
view, since they will probably have something to say that is as legitimate as what we
had to say.
 They don’t feel the need to talk louder, over the other person, or interrupt them,
because they assume that the other person’s explanations are as valid, if not more valid,
than their own.
 They don’t feel the need to get angry or usher bitter closure to a disagreement, because
they assume that it takes time to process information and discussion. Therefore, they
listen more than they talk, leaving the disagreement with the intention to examine and
think more deeply about what they heard.

When each person in a disagreement enters it with humility instead of pride, the disagreement
will definitely take longer to work through. And that’s where the rub is. We want to be

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right…and we want to be right, RIGHT NOW! But a humble person knows that this is not reality.
A humble person knows that the time it takes to process and work through a disagreement
means that both parties will grow in wisdom and understanding (intellectually), as well as in
love for one another (spiritually). Trying to work through a disagreement too quickly shows
pride which motivates impatience toward the process. But humility knows that this is just a
fact of life if we want to handle the disagreement with honesty and integrity.

What the Bible Says

So what does the Bible say about pride and humility when it comes to our communication with
each other? I want to focus primarily on two books, Proverbs and James, both of which seem
to address this issue with the greatest emphasis.

1. Proverbs has the most to say about our attitude toward and communication with other
people. It is chock full of God’s wisdom for those who want to follow Jesus Christ. One of
the great themes is wisdom versus foolishness, pride versus humility. And the
distinguishing mark of wisdom is that it keeps a person’s mouth shut more than it is open.
It makes one listen twice as much as he/she talks. Proverbs 17:28 is a humorous saying,
repeated often by my grandfather when growing up (then by my mother), that sets the
table for the following texts I want to share with you.

“Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent;


With their mouths shut, they seem intelligent!”

Centuries after this Proverb was record, its truth was concretely established in the first
century Roman culture by Publilius Syrus, “Let a fool hold his tongue and he will be passed
for a sage” (First Century BC, Maxim 914). This bit of wisdom was forever enscripturated in
our American culture by President Abraham Lincoln who paraphrased this Proverb: “Better
to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” A famous
contemporary of Lincoln, journalist and editorialist Ambrose Bierce, defined as a “bore,” “a
person who talks when you wish him to listen.” A century later, journalist and editorialist
Frank Tyger stated it most simply when he wrote, “Be a good listener. Your ears will never
get you in trouble!”

In the end, disagreements should be marked by more listening than speaking. To be sure,
someone has to speak, because that’s the way discussion happens. But the distinguishing
mark of wise people involved in a disagreement is, according to Stephen Covey’s Seven
Habit of Highly Effective People, they “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

 10:19, in one translation, teaches that, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he
who holds his tongue is wise” (NIV). In a sense, it seems to be saying that when
someone has to run their mouth so much about something, they are probably covering
up sin. In another translation we read, “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and
keep your mouth shut” (NLT). That seems teach that if you are person who talks too

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much, you will probably end up saying sinful things. In either case, the unarguable point
of the last phrase is to remember that you have two ears and one mouth, therefore talk
half as much as you listen, which for some of you, will be quite a feat, I’m sure!

Cease conversations that seem as if there is no restraint being exercised on the part of
the one who is talking to you. Cease conversations in which you sense that this
person is talking too freely about whatever is coming to his or her mind.

 In 10:12; 16:28; 20:3, we learn that it is wise to cease discussing our disagreements at
all when they just turn into strife and conflict all the time. Instead, humility says we are
to seek peace with others we ultimately disagree with by covering everything with love.

Cease conversations which stir up strife or ones that do not seek peace by covering
everything with love.

 In 10:18, we are taught that humility is not presumptive. That is, humble people don’t
speak into disagreements they aren’t even involved in. In addition, humble people
don’t involve themselves in communication that makes them change their view of
another person and impugn their character, or think evil of them.

Cease conversations that speak to issues in which you were not involved. Cease
conversations that cause you to draw conclusions that change your view of and
impugn the character of another.

 In 11:9 we are taught about prideful people that, “With their words, the godless destroy
their friends, but knowledge will rescue the righteous.” When you disagree with
someone, what you say can destroy someone you call your friend. But humility tells you
to remember to keep your mouth shut, which will rescue you and your friendship.

Cease conversations that destroy person or tear them down in anyway.

 In 11:12, a similar piece of wisdom is taught this way: “It is foolish to belittle one’s
neighbor; a sensible person keeps quiet.” When you are in a disagreement, pride will
tell you when you are around your friends to make fun of the person you disagree with.

Cease conversations where you sense that the one talking to you despises the one(s)
they talk about.

 In 11:13, there is wisdom for those who encounter gossip, which is almost always
present when it comes to disagreements between people. “A gossip goes around telling
secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.” When you have a
disagreement with someone, don’t go around spreading what they said.

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Cease conversations where you feel that you are being a party to information that you
know you should not be a party to.

 In 12:18, we are taught that pride will cause someone to, “make cutting remarks.” But
humility knows that “the words of the wise bring healing.” When you have a
disagreement with someone, keep your mouth shut when you feel the temptation to
cut other people down, which includes sarcasm and belittling others.

Cease conversations where another is speaking to you rashly about someone else,
with quick jabs, and stories, and information, or where you find that the conversation
is not very healing to the situation.

 In 14:15, we have an interesting twist in wisdom. So far most of the wisdom has been
directed toward and about foolish people. But here, it is directed to oneself, who can
act foolish by “believing everything they’re told!” Instead, we are to be prudent people
who carefully consider what we will do next. When you are in a disagreement with
someone else, don’t automatically believe what the other person tells you! They might
be wrong!

Cease conversations in which you sense that those involved do not consider carefully
what they say before they say it, or in which you sense that you are being too simple-
minded in what you are hearing.

 In 15:1, we find counsel on how to handle an angry person. “A gentle answer deflects
anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” When you are handling a disagreement,
answer the angry person with gentleness, and don’t be the one who stirs up anger in
another person with your harsh words. It’s better to keep your mouth shut.

Cease conversations where you sense in one who is talking to you the presence of
either harsh words or harsh attitudes

 In 15:2, we find that the heart of a humble person will have wisdom that “makes
knowledge appealing.” That’s essential when there’s a disagreement. Most of the time
our bad attitude makes our viewpoint very unappealing, even if we happen to be right.
But a heart of pride causes “the mouth of the fool” to “belch out foolishness.” When
you are in a disagreement, present your viewpoint in such a way that your humility
argues stronger than your mouth.

Cease conversations where your communication with another person seems to be


simply a venting of information and frustration.

 In 15:4, we are brought back to the humility of gentle words. “Gentle words are a tree
of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” When you are in a disagreement, lying to
make your viewpoint look more right is really stupid, because when the other person

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finds out you lied, you crush their spirit. Instead, you want the words of your viewpoint
to plant and water a tree of life in their soul.

Cease conversations that crush the spirit.

 In 16:28, we see the stark contrast once again between the prideful (foolish) person and
the humble (wise) person. “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the
best of friends.” When you find yourself in a disagreement with someone, stirring up
trouble about it will only plant a seed of strife that grows fruit of bitterness, resentment,
anger, impatience, and hatred for that person. And when you gossip about someone
you disagree with, you will end up killing your friendships.

Cease conversations that cause you to separate from your intimate friends.

 In 18:2, the prideful person “has no interest in understanding; they only want to air
their own opinions.” When you are in a disagreement with someone, make sure you are
not just interested in voicing your opinions or views. Again, you have two ears and one
mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk.

Cease conversations where the other person is only interested in talking about their
opinions, viewpoints, and arguments. It is a waste of time.

 In 18:6, we see that the prideful person is always arguing in a way that ends up causing
a fight or a quarrel. “Fools’ words get them into constant quarrels; they are asking for a
beating.” Just make sure you are not the one who gives them that beating…or the one
who deserves it! When disagreements arise, keep your mouth shut more than it is open
and you’ll find that it will, more than likely, not turn into a knock-down-drag-out
argument.

Cease conversations that always turn into fighting and quarreling.

 In 18:13, we have one of the finest pieces of wisdom when it comes to communication.
“Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” This is one of
the most disregarded pieces of God’s wisdom in most conversations and disagreements.
We seem so eager to come to a conclusion… yet without hearing all the facts involved.
“Shoot now, ask questions later,” is the prideful person’s normal response. If you are in
a disagreement with someone, listen twice as much as you talk, so that you will get all
the facts about the matter or issue…unless of course you aren’t interested in reality!

Cease conversations with people whose reputation is marked by arrogant opinions,


because they are not rooted in reality, honesty, or integrity.

 In 18:15, the writer teaches us the mark of a humble person: they are intelligent.
“Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge.”

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When you are in a disagreement, are you the one listening? If you are, chances are that
you also are the one most ready to learn. That is what disagreements should really be
all about in the end…an opportunity to learn and grow…not an opportunity to have a
verbal cage fight.

Cease conversations with people who talk more than they listen. They are not
wanting to learn…just to talk.

 In 18:20-21, the last words of wisdom in this chapter continue on this same theme.
“Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction. The tongue can
bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” A humble
person listens more than he speaks, and when he does speak, we hear wisdom, and it
satisfies other humble persons in the disagreement like a good meal. A prideful person
talks more than he listens, and when he does speak, there will be consequences.
Cease conversations with people whose talk creates an atmosphere of death instead
of life. The fruit of death is more death, and you would rather be caught up into life.

 In 25:9-10, there is wisdom to be gained regarding some of the sensitive issues that
come up in disagreements. “When arguing with your neighbor, don’t betray another
person’s secret. Others may accuse you of gossip, and you will never regain your good
reputation.” Our desire for a good reputation seems so small and disingenuous today,
doesn’t it? We want a good public reputation, but we aren’t necessarily concerned
about the smaller matters that go on in private. But that’s where integrity is built.
When you are in a disagreement with someone, don’t gossip about other people, and
don’t gossip to other people about the person you are disagreeing with. Friendships
really suffer, along with your reputation.

Cease conversations where you feel that the one speaking to you is spreading private
and/or secret information which doesn’t involve you.

 In 29:20, we have one final piece of wisdom about our communication. “There is more
hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking.” Once again, we find
this common theme in prideful, foolish people who talk more than they listen. When
this happens, they are almost always speaking without all the facts, and therefore
without much thinking. Humble people carefully weigh what the other person is saying,
before they speak their response.

Cease conversations where you feel that the one speaking to you is being too hasty
with what he or she is saying.

2. James 1:19-21 commands us to, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must
all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce
the righteousness of God. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept

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the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.” James,
the step-brother of Jesus Christ, and pastor of the church in Jerusalem, is writing to his
church family, most of whom have been scattered all over because of the persecution of
King Herod and pre-Apostle Paul (see Acts 8). In the midst of the stress of being away from
home, all manner of disagreements broke out among the believers everywhere. Their
disagreements were not altogether different from ours, though in one or two senses they
may have been.

 The believers were professing to be followers of Jesus, but they were not talking
much like Him. In 1:26 he taught them, “If you claim to be religious but don’t
control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless”
(NLT)

 The believers were professing to follow a Savior who showed no favoritism or


narcissism, yet they were showing it to others. In 2:1 and 9 he wrote, “My dear
brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus
Christ if you favor some people over others?...But if you favor some people over
others, you are committing a sin.” Yet how often do believers do this? We will
often find ourselves siding with someone we like over against someone we don’t
like, even when the people we like are actually wrong about an issue!

 Their mouths really got them in a lot of trouble, evidently. In 3:1 and following
James wrote, “Dear brothers and sisters…if we could control our tongues, we
would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way…the
tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a
great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire…People can tame all kinds
of animals…but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly
poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those
who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come
pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not
right!”

 Their disagreements with each other evidently led to some pretty nasty and evil
things. In 4:1 and following James rebukes them this way: “What is causing the
quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war
within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You
are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war
to take it away from them...God opposes the proud but favors the humble.”

 Naturally, one of the things pride leads us to do in disagreements with others is


to speak evil of them, both to their faces and behind their backs. This was
evidently happening with the believers James was pastoring. They were reading
their Bibles and then making up their own principles and things to live by, which
led them to criticize and judge others who didn’t do the same thing. James

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teaches his people in 4:11, “Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers
and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and
judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it
applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the
power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?”

 Judging one another was evidently a major undercurrent among these


people…and not much has changed among “Christians” today, has it? James
repeats himself on this matter in 5:9 by writing, “Don’t grumble about each
other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged.”

Conclusion

If we have believed the gospel, then that good news is the power of God for us. It is the power
of God to transform and renew our minds, our thinking processes, our intelligence, and
therefore our communication and conversation. This means that disagreements between
believers ought to look fundamentally different than any other disagreement by even the two
kindest and most intelligent lost people. There should be a spirit and attitude about their
communication that should mark them as truly loving one another, and therefore as truly
interested in learning from the one they love.

When you love someone you really listen to them. You appreciate what they say. You see
them as wiser than yourself, more humble than yourself. You put yourself in a position to grow
in maturity…mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You value their insights and opinions. Their
views are insightful and desirable to you. They make conversation appealing. You actually
want to know their viewpoint, not to argue with them, but to follow after them. This heart of
love for one another comes from God who first loved us. Therefore, if you talk more than you
listen, it shows how little you actually love the other person whom God has put in your life to
sharpen you…assuming they too are marked by the features of wisdom we’ve seen in the
biblical texts. Love one another and you’ll listen to one another more.

Love produces submission. Paul wrote in Ephesians 5 that we are to “submit to one another
out of reverence for Christ” (v. 21). While the following context reveals(5:22-6:9) that this
submission has an order in various environments (children to parents, wives to husbands,
husbands to Christ, slaves to masters, etc.), the previous context reveals (5:15-20) that it is
something we also do mutually, toward one another, assuming we’ve been filled with the Spirit.

Paul said it in Romans 12:10 this way: “Love each other with genuine affection. Prefer one
another in honor.” He put it another way in Philippians 2:3: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to
impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” What this ultimately
means is that when we find ourselves in a disagreement with someone else, the power of the
gospel works in us to submit to, prefer, and honor other people over ourselves, which includes
their opinions, viewpoints, and arguments. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we
wholeheartedly adopt everything everyone else around us says to us. Rather, it means that

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even we have a legitimate disagreement, we should be tripping over each other let the other
talk and make his case, and then take it home to carefully consider it.

In this way we will create an environment or atmosphere thick with grace. This will have two
effects, in my experience. First, grace will put the issues we actually disagree over in their
proper perspective. Without grace, pretty much everything we disagree on appears so huge,
life-altering, earth-shattering, and worth separating over. With grace, pretty much everything
we disagree on appears so small. By contrast it does not make us feel like we must radically
alter our lives, nor does it make us feel cold toward the other person. Instead, grace will make
us love them more, want to be with them more, and overlook more.

Second, grace will actually mature our thinking process. With the truly important things on the
radar, we will be more focused and therefore more clear in our thinking. Lesser things will not
cloud out what is really important, but will fade away into the background. Smaller issues will
not hold so much of our attention, because we will clearly identify them as small in comparison.
Also, we will experience a sharpened sense of analysis and processing. Wisdom will come in to
play and quickly shave off and chisel away at elements or features of an issue that are
insignificant or unimportant. As a result, discussions over disagreements will be more efficient
and far less distracted by the “small stuff.” Both persons or parties will quickly see what
matters and what doesn’t, and conclusions will more than likely be formed faster, and with
consent of the whole group. That is, what they can agree on will end up occupying more of
their efforts together than what they cannot agree on.

Doesn’t this sound like a much more appealing conversation over a disagreement? It certainly
does to me. No more stomach aches, ulcers, and acid reflux over disagreements. No more
fighting and quarrelling. No more arguing and complaining. No more conflict and strife. Each
one serving the other in love, preferring the other, wanting to hear and understand the other,
desiring to learn from the other. This is the environment the gospel of Jesus Christ can and will
create when we seek grace, humility and wisdom as the most precious commodities on earth.

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