SOMETHING TO THING ABOUT: Conflicting perspectives
Gaining a clear perspective isn’t always easy. As the old saying goes, “There are always two sides to every story.” Two blind men were describing the same elephant. One described a short, skinny trunk while the other was certain the tail was long and fat. The men were holding opposite ends of the elephant. While their descriptions were accurate, their facts were flawed. Both were correct in their assessment but wrong in their conclusion. Further, neither was willing to accept the other’s perspective.
How is it that two honest people can describe the same experience in categorically opposite ways? It happens all the time.
Solomon understood the power of perspective. When two women claimed the same baby as their own, he offered to oblige them by cutting the child in half. One of the mothers decided to acquiesce in an effort to save the baby. Seeing the baby live became most important. Solomon’s offer was more than a compromise. It was an ultimate test. For this mom, having nothing was better than having something. She was willing to give up her baby in order to give it life. In the end, she prevailed.
Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” With a house full of kids, I am often put in the position to serve as judge and jury. I am famous for quoting James 4:1-2, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it.”
Most disagreements are rooted in selfishness. Like the mother hoping to steal the baby, our insistence on getting our way clouds our better judgment. We fail to acknowledge other valid perspectives. Unfortunately, we choose to alienate rather than investigate other possibilities.
Even more disturbing are instances where those who disagree are not capable of differentiating between opinion and truth. Anyone who has ever been on the selection committee for new carpet at the church knows what I mean. A lack of consensus has served as the launch pad for a new church on more than one occasion.
Rather than seeing disagreements among the body of Christ as opportunities for division, I propose we see disagreements as an opportunity to gain broader perspectives, important insight and respect for the opinions of others. Rather than alienate, disagreements can serve as a way to demonstrate compassion, genuine interest in others as well as build bridges to absolute truth.
Consensus may never come. Compromise may not be accomplished. Agreeing to disagree may be all that is possible. Nonetheless, I Peter 3:8 serves as an excellent guide when approaching one another with conflicting perspectives. “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.”