I have been guilty at times of viewing people who disagreed with me as being lesser than me. We as humans often times have a terrible perception of someone when they don’t agree with us, especially when it comes to religious matters. One of the characteristics of love is that it, “believes all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). We should always assume the best when we deal with other people, not the worst. Below are several unwarranted accusations we may sometimes make when someone disagrees with our conclusion(s).
“They just don’t love God like I do.” It actually may be the case that the person of whom I disagree loves God more than me, but is just still searching (1 Tim. 1:13; Mt. 7:7). We should treat others with the same respect and assumptions that we want to be treated with (Mt. 7:12).
“They are just ignorant and don’t know how to study the Bible.” If I go into discussions assuming this accusation, then I will always view myself as a teacher instead of a student (2 Cor. 13:5). No matter what level of spiritual maturity I might reach, I must remember that I will always be a student who is growing (2 Pet. 3:17-18; 2 Tim. 2:15; Acts 17:11).
“They don’t respect God and are out to destroy truth.” While I am sure that there are those who do have the wrong intention (Phil. 1:16), the majority of people who are in error do what they do because they believe it is the right thing (Rom. 10:1-3). We must be very careful not to automatically attach a wrong intent to those whom we disagree.
The above accusations could be multiplied but should be sufficient to make the point. Why do we make accusations like this? Often times it is a way to discredit the other side. We may make accusations like this when we feel like we don’t have the strongest biblical argument. It is much easier to bring the conversation down to a subjective discussion about intent. It may also be a way to have an answer when we really don’t have an answer. If we can convince ourselves that the other person really doesn’t really care about God, then we won’t have to listen to what they say…even if it is making sense!
This is nothing more than a superficial strategy that uses circular reasoning to discredit those who don’t agree with our conclusions while evading what they actually said. Even if the person could be discredited, discrediting the person who is speaking doesn’t automatically discredit their speech.
The problem with all of the above is that it presupposes that we are always the ones who are right. If everyone believed they were infallible, then truth and honest discussion would have no place. We must always consider that we could be wrong. Paul said, “You who think you stand, take heed lest you fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
There are righteous judgments that have to be made according to the best of our ability (Jn. 7:24; Mt. 12:33; etc.). However, we need to make sure that our conclusions are warranted upon reliable evidence and proof (1 Thess. 5:21). Furthermore, it is not up to us to judge intent, for only God knows the secret things of the heart (Psa. 44:21; 1 Cor. 4:5). I can promise you that your dialogues will go much better when you assume the best of intentions.
– Kevin Pendergrass
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