How to Remain Friends Amidst Controversy
There is no way to completely avoid controversy among brethren. Recognizing this, we need to be determined to remain friends in spite of our differences. If you and I are friends we will seek every option available to us to maintain our relationship, but if we are merely acquaintances we may not be that concerned about it. Indeed, "A friend loves at all times" (Prov. 17:17).
Differing convictions put a strain on us, posing potential for a break in friendships, which increase the chances of division. This should cause us to do all we can to remain friends even though we have disagreement. I have some suggestions as to how to remain friends even when we differ:
1. Study together the issues that threaten unity. To avoid discussion on matters of disagreement is only delaying the inevitable.
2. Avoid name-calling. Usually the "brands" are not appreciated by the one being "branded." At the same time recognize the difficulty in completely avoiding labels, and determine not to be "hurt" if one is used in referring to your position.
3. Avoid broad generalizations. Do not assume that your friend believes and/or practices everything that is advocated by those with whom he is associated, It is unfair to claim he has swallowed the camel because he has swallowed some gnats.
4. Avoid ridicule. Nobody likes to be ridiculed. Treat him and his beliefs with the same dignity that you expect him to have toward you and your beliefs. Always speak kindly and respectfully.
5. Assume good motives on the part of him with whom you disagree. He probably is trying as much as you to please God. If not, let God deal with that problem. You wouldn't want him to impugn your motives!
6. Try to understand the opposing position. Truly listen to the other point of view instead of "tuning him out" while you prepare your next argument.
7. Determine to part friends. Even if you don't come to agreement, be committed to maintaining your friendship. If the friendship can survive, opportunity still exists for unity.
The question may arise: What if the person with whom I disagree is not a friend? Then I suggest, treat him just like a friend, and likely he'll become your friend. Remember, "A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother" (Prov. 18:36).
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 3, p. 72