Robert F. Turner
Plain Talk, July 1974
Brethren frequently differ with one another, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. It may indicate conviction and our concern that others share our understanding of God's word. Differences spring from various degrees of learning or experience, or from opinions expressed on moot questions. They may be avenues for greater learning and service, as all true saints will seek to keep differences within constructive bounds. But we must know how to differ constructively. Who will write a How-To study, with a teacher's manual and workbooks? The need is here, in a wide field.
If I were writing such material I think I would begin by saying that we may differ with equals — on a compatible basis as neighbors. Childish weakness is evident in those who consider all with whom they differ as blood enemies. We must grow up.
Second: make all possible efforts to understand the other's position. Can you state his affirmation so he will accept it? You may find that you agree on the principle, and differ only on its application to some practices. Say so, and study accordingly.
Next: try to understand why your opponent thinks as he does. Seek, by reasoning, to walk in his shoes. This will improve your attitude toward him and may enable you to help him. (I am
assuming that saints maintain this goal in their differences.) Also, as error involves persons, we need to be aware that there is a brother on the other end of our lance.
Hearts are won, not taken by battle tactics. A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. Real conviction can not be forced on anyone, and carnal efforts to do so defeat legitimate purposes (II Corinthians 10).
Listen — at least as much as speak. If your opponent takes unfair advantage of the time, give him a gentle reminder or two — then politely but firmly excuse yourself. A shouting contest wins no souls for Christ.
Be honest! If you can not answer a question, say so and promise to study, then answer later. In such cases, let your opponent explain his answer and proofs; then check these as you study the matter for yourself.
As much as possible, turn differences into mutual studies — two men, working together to determine truth, I am aware that ideal circumstances can not always exist, but we can try.
And remember, he who best serves the Lord is the winner — always!!