the weblog of Alan Knox

Disagreements without Separation

Posted by on Feb 26, 2010 in community, fellowship, unity | 11 comments

I had a very encouraging conversation yesterday with a brother concerning Romans 14:1-15:7. We were talking about how to disagree with brothers and sisters without separating from them. Here are some points from our discussion:

  1. Start with our agreement, primarily in the person and work of Jesus Christ, in our common relationship to God and to one another. When we start with our agreement we can recognize that most of our disagreements are insignificant compared to the greatness and immensity of our agreements.
  2. When we finally discuss our disagreement, we do so as brothers and/or sisters. Thus, we treat one another with respect.
  3. We also hold our beliefs (even strong beliefs) with humility, recognizing that God can always teach us through our brother or sister.
  4. While discussing our disagreements we never say anything or do anything that would cause our brother or sister to stumble or to hinder their growth in the faith. We also regard our brother or sister as more important – even more important than showing our views to be right.
  5. Even if we fail to agree and even if we continue to hold our own beliefs (being convinced in our own consciences), we live in a way that honors our brother or sister.
  6. Even if we fail to agree, we end with a reminder of our mutual relationship to one another through Christ. If God has accepted us in Christ, then we must accept one another.
  7. If the brother or sister chooses to separate from us, we do not have to react by separating ourselves from him or her. We cannot choose how another persons acts toward us, but we can choose to be loving in return.

What do you think? What would you add?

(And, by the way, yes, there are disagreements that can cause us to separate. We read about some of these in Scripture. But, they are usually well beyond what usually causes us to separate from brothers and sisters.)


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 2-26-2010

    In the past when I attended services the messages were usually on those beliefs that made us distinct from other Christians. Those different doctrines also dominated much of my personal study time. Today I gather as a church with brothers and sisters from many different traditions. We choose to discuss things that edify each other or motivate us to good works.

    I really love playing with ideas and discussing knowledge. However I’ve found that most areas Christians disagree on don’t really edify, encourage or provoke us toward good works. Therefore they don’t tend to come up very often in our meetings. Knowledge is a wonderful gift, however as Paul warned our knowledge can puff us up with pride, while love edifies others.

    Sometimes my desire to correct another brother’s understanding of scripture has more to do with me than it does with a desire to actually help my brother.

  2. 2-26-2010


  3. 2-26-2010


    Yes. I can identify with what you’ve written. I’m learning how to focus on agreements more than disagreements.




  4. 2-27-2010

    Well, I want to agree with you guys but I am struggling, sorry if you find that my comment is not edifying!

    Subject to the sort of ‘rules’ worked out by Alan disagreement can and should also be edifying. Discussing things we agree on can be very enjoyable but also prideful indulgence as we preen ourselves in front of each other about how right we both are. Disagreement, handled properly, can challenge the real depth of our Christian commitment; stretching our knowledge of the Word, the depth of our relationship with each other but, above all, with Him.

    If Alan’s comment ‘…more than disagreements’ is about balance then I can certainly say Amen to that. However, avoiding the hard questions on which we differ can be a dereliction of duty.

    I am not sure how much of the Bible would be left if we removed all the ‘disagreements’!

  5. 2-27-2010


    Thanks for the comment. I don’t think I disagree with anything you said. 🙂


  6. 2-28-2010

    This is a great post, Alan. Very well said. In fact, I think that you and I have played this out in our own friendship, although we definitely agree on a lot. But I’ve certainly said things on my podcast and on my blog that would have caused you to separate from me if you were so inclined to view it that way. At least, I think so. Thanks for being my friend and not separating from me! 🙂

  7. 3-1-2010

    Alastair – I also agree with what you said. I was not suggesting that we avoid talking about areas we disagree on.

    Alan’s 4th rule could be restated as…let all you say or do be motivated by love for the other person. When love and a geniune concern for our brother is our chief aim, it will effect our speech. Both in how we talk about our different doctrinal beliefs (which is what Alan wrote about), and whether there is something more important to talk about than our doctrinal differences – something that may better help our brother to live out his faith.

  8. 3-1-2010

    There are three scriptures that state what our liberty should not be:

    1. An occasion to the flesh Gal 5:13
    2. A stumbling block to a weaker brother 1Cr 8:9
    3. a cloke for maliciousness 1Pe 2:16

    I would evaluate motive for many of our disagreements here. Then to decide whom is the ‘weaker’ brother…could it just possibly be me?

    (your rules 3 & 4)

  9. 3-2-2010


    We settled long ago that we agree on the most important thing: the kind of car we drive.


    You said we should talk about “something that may better help our brother to live out his faith”. Yes, exactly!


    I’ve often wondered what would happen when two mature believers talked about their differences. Would they each treat the other as the “weaker” brother? I think so… and I think that would be good… because each would be looking out for the other, and not for him/herself.


  10. 5-24-2012

    In the bigger picture, this is a nice dream. We have enough denominations to prove that disagreements often foster dissension and separation. But, it is absolutely correct and most certainly possible to disagree and remain in fellowship. It is also quite possible that disagreements can be an opportunity for learning…of course, there is a degree of humility required for this to take place.

    There is a time to leave, though. When the other party is stuck in some mindset which may include off-the-wall doctrine or some sort of cult-ish belief, it may be wise to part ways. If the other person in this sort of mindset is always right, if there is no discussing a matter, if the other person is dead-set on non-Biblical doctrine – an exit strategy is likely prudent.

    However, I do not in anyway believe or condone any notion that we kick such a person to the proverbial curb. Regular fellowship may have taken a back seat, but this should not result in not going to weddings or sending birthday cards or simply stopping on the street to greet one another – this is, provided the other party has not cut you off.

    Sadly, I speak from experience. We left our last church because of their embracing basic tenets of the Shepherding Movement. Any time we see any of those people (two of which I have known since I was a teen in 1976) we are treated like we have the plague. So, in such a case, I have nothing to do with them, only because that is seemingly what they want. But, if any one of them has a need that I can assist in, I will take no more thought than if we were in regular fellowship.

    I’d like to think I have this right. I am willing to discuss it, though.

  11. 5-25-2012


    I think I understand what you’re talking about. When I write about unity in Christ, I’m primarily writing about real, relational unity and fellowship among people who God has brought into our lives. I’m not writing about associating with organizations (even church organizations). I think it is possible to separate from organizations while maintaining fellowship with people. Of course, if the people choose to separate from you (because you separated from an organization), you can’t do too much about that.



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