Treatment of Those With Whom You Disagree
by Pastor Jack Hyles
(Chapter 1 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, How to Treat Different Types of Church members)
Romans 12:10, "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another."
Ephesians 4:1-3, "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
Ephesians 4:30-32, "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
I Corinthians 6:7, "Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?"
As is said often in this manuscript, the modem fundamental church is far more intricate than it was in previous generations. In earlier times church members were together only a few hours a week. On Sunday morning we met for Sunday school, which was followed by the morning preaching service. About half of us returned on Sunday night, and a remnant came to the midweek service on Wednesday evening. Because of this, we did not know each other real well, and the possibilities of irritation were few and seldom. We could wear our best behavior for an hour or two. So, it was easy to like each other.
The modem fundamental church is far more complicated than that. We are together often and for long periods at a time. For example, the First Baptist Church of Hammond has many things for our children and young people. We have our Christian schools where a child can enroll in kindergarten at the age of 4 and 19 years later graduate from our college with his master's degree. This means that we are together at school five days a week for seven or eight hours. Included in the school program are many extracurricular activities such as sports, cheer leading, pep squads, shops, class meetings, class parties, field trips, etc. Then the church provides regular youth activities, camps, choirs, children's clubs and intramural boys baseball league, Bible studies, prayer groups, teenage soul winning, high school Bible clubs, etc.
This means that the fundamental church of today has become its own little community. We are together not only for two or three hours on Sunday, but we are together every day of the week.
These activities cause multitudes of opportunities for interaction and provide many different forms of relationships. The average parent, for example, has regular contact with those who lead his children. There are many of these such as the principal, the teachers, the coaches, the choir directors, the youth directors, the Sunday school teachers, the Bible club leaders, the soul-winning captains and many others. We no longer simply see each other sitting side by side in the quietness of a morning service, but we are constantly interacting with church people. We see each other as we are. We see faults as well as strengths, liabilities as well as assets, and the minus as well as the plus.
Men, when we go to church, we may share the same Sunday school class with the parents of the child we teach in school and with the teacher of our child. We may sit in the same choir with them or usher side by side with them. We may sit with them in the same Sunday school class or share the same bus route. We may sit
side by side in one of many other church activities of the modem fundamental church. All of this means that there are more chances for disagreement, irritability and even strife. Constant care must be taken in order to minimize friction caused by disagreements.
1. Do not express disappointments. So much can be left unsaid. Never use such statements as, "I am disappointed with you," "I am disappointed in him," or "I wish you had not done that." There is no law that says that we must comment on everything that is said to us or that we must critique everything that is done to us. If something has been done that has disappointed us, it has already been done and there is no undoing it. There is no need for us to summarize our displeasure. This is the time to use the art of silence.
2. Do not give your opinions if not asked or if they are outside your area of authority. There is no law that requires us to always give an opinion, and it is usually best to keep our opinions to ourselves unless our advice is requested or unless it is within our area of authority and responsibility. If someone expresses an opinion with which we disagree, it is usually best not to voice that disagreement.
An aid to this is the division of responsibilities. I am a firm believer in delegation and separation of authority. The more decisions that we share, the more opportunities we create for disagreement. For example, in a home I think it is wise for the husband and wife to divide responsibilities, therefore making as few decisions together as possible. For example, at our house I take care of the finances. That is my responsibility and my area. For these many years I have given Mrs. Hyles an allowance every week from whence she buys groceries and incidentals and then has some left for herself. She spends this money as she chooses. Apart from that, I am in charge of the rest of the finances. We never have to argue or fuss about money. She has her area of responsibility and I have mine.
On the other hand, the house, its furnishing and keeping are her responsibilities. She chooses where the furniture is placed, and all the decisions concerning the house are hers. If I come in some night and the sofa is in the entrance hall blocking the door, I will simply crawl over the sofa and say, "What a novel idea! Not many wives realize how tired their husbands are and are thoughtful enough to give him a place to rest as soon as he walks in the door."
Other responsibilities are divided likewise, which means there is no opportunity to disagree or argue. This is why I advise young couples not to go grocery shopping together. She may want one brand; he may want another. If 100 objects are bought together, then there are 100 opportunities for disagreement. I recommend that if young couples do go grocery shopping together, that one should simply push the cart and the other make all the decisions. These are just illustrations in suggesting that we divide responsibilities so as to avoid disagreement opportunities.
This same thing should be applied at church. There is no need to appoint five people on a flower committee to spend seven days deciding what flowers are going to be on the communion table on Sunday morning. Let one person do it and avoid chances for disagreement. There is no need for a music committee to decide what the choir special will be on Sunday. Let the music director decide. Delegate responsibility. Give authority. Divide the decision making processes. There is no need for a youth committee to plan the youth activity. Let the youth director do it. Let the Christian school teacher be the school teacher. Let the principal be the principal. Let the choir director be the choir director. Let the bus director be the bus director. Let the head usher be the head usher. Choose qualified, spiritual, amiable people and give them each an area of responsibility. Of course, there should be veto power at the top, but this power should be used wisely, carefully and seldom. Of course, it must be remembered that the responsibility is delegated, but let there be responsibility. This gives us less opportunity to express unnecessary opinions that could cause strife and friction.
If the wife asks the husband what he thinks about her new hairdo, he can sidestep the answer graciously by saying, "You always look attractive." This policy can be applied to all the areas of our family and church life and will keep our disagreements from surfacing, and believe me, most of them do not need to surface!
Of course, the wise person will seek counsel from others concerning the decisions that he must make within his sphere of authority, but until such advice is sought, silence is usually the best course of action.
3. Do not demand your area of authority. There are some fields and areas in which one might be more qualified than the person to whom this responsibility has been delegated. Then, there are some people who will give you advice that is unwanted and that you think is not needed. In other words, they are not complying with the suggestions made in the previous point. When such intrusion is made, do not bristle; do not remind them that they are out of bounds; listen to them patiently without making rebuttal; thank them kindly for their advice; and then choose yourself whether or not to use it. Do not let them know who is boss or remind them of their intrusion. Do not flaunt your title, your power or your position. Simply realize that the power of decision is in your hands, and if someone has unwisely used his right to intrude, his intrusion makes you no less responsible to make the decision. Because of this, there is no need for rebuttal on your part. Simply listen to the one who is out of order, thank him for his suggestion and go about your business of making the right decision within the sphere of your responsibility.
4. Do not start an answer with a negative comment. Such statements as, "I don't agree," "You're wrong," etc., should never precede a statement of disagreement. It would be far better to use such statements as, "What do you think about this additional thought?" "Here is an idea along the same line," or "Your statement has led me to this thought."
When someone presents an idea with which we do not agree, negative statements at the first of our reply are like a slap in the face and can partially or totally close the door of their acceptance of our idea which is about to be expressed.
5. Allow the other person to have at least a possibility of being right, or the possibility that he may be partially right, or the possibility that some of his opinions may be right. Leave him room to breathe. Leave him with some dignity.
Recently a young lady was expelled from Hyles-Anderson College. Shortly after this expulsion, I was in her home church preaching for two days. I asked her father if he and his daughter would have lunch with me on Tuesday. The young lady was not treated as a criminal. She was treated with dignity and propriety. Toward the end of the conversation I told her that there was a possibility that we too had made some mistakes. I asked her to tell me frankly of any area in our college where she thought we could improve and where students could be treated with more justice, propriety and discernment. Though she was reluctant to do so, upon my insistence, she did. Her suggestions were very helpful, and some of them are being implemented at this time at Hyles-Anderson College. Our conversation was a help to me and a help to her. She was a fine young lady who had made some mistakes and who wanted to correct them. I did her a service by giving her a chance to help us, and she did us a service by her willingness to help. I predict that she will return to us and that she will be a cooperative, obedient and diligent student; and, by the way, she and I will no doubt be friends for life.
Fundamentalists believe strongly, and this is good, but in our interaction with each other, we must not always feel that there is no possibility of our making a mistake. We must remember that honest disagreement is not always rebellion or anarchy.
6. Do not express your opinion unless you have the power to help. If someone asks me after a certain course of action has been taken, "Did I do right?" I do not reply The act has been committed, and it is too late for advice. I am always happy to give advice and counsel when asked, but I do not volunteer that advice nor do I expose my opinion when it can plant a seed that could lead to disagreement and perhaps strife.
7. Do not express your opinion when you are aware of the advice that has been given by your peers whom you respect and with whom you work.
Just the night before the writing of this chapter, a Hyles-Anderson College student came to my office asking my advice about a matter. He reminded me that he had already sought advice from Dr. Evans, the President of Hyles-Anderson College, and then told me quickly the advice that Dr. Evans had given him. I graciously declined to give him advice because I did not want to nullify or conflict with the counsel given him by Dr. Evans, whom I respect tremendously.
This is not to say that the young person should not have sought advice from more than one, and I would certainly have counseled with him and advised him had I not known of his previous approach to Dr. Evans, or if I had not known the nature of Dr. Evans' advice.
8. Ask yourself, "Who probably has the best chance of being right on this issue?" If the administrative committee of Hyles-Anderson College is discussing college curriculum concerning history classes, I would think that Dr. Evans, one of fundamentalism's outstanding historians, would be eminently more qualified than I. So, if he and I were to disagree concerning history curriculum, I would probably yield to his position. If we then turned to the subject of the curriculum of pastoral theology and had a disagreement, Dr. Evans would no doubt yield to my position. Such action should also be considered when the parent disagrees with the teacher concerning a school matter, when the teacher disagrees with the principal concerning administration, when the member of the church disagrees with the pastor concerning his preaching and many other areas of the church program.
I am an opinionated person; most leaders are. However, I realize that my knowledge of music is very limited. To be sure, there are boundaries that I build around the music program at First Baptist Church and that of Hyles-Anderson College, but within those boundaries, I almost always yield to the wishes and decisions of those in charge of the music departments. Of course, those who lead these departments are lovely people and would bow to my wishes on any occasion. I accept the right to have this authority and to exercise it if I see fit, but the possession of this right does not necessitate its frequent use. It must be remembered that we have as much a right not to use our rights as we have to use them. We should not abuse them by unwise use or an excess of frequency.
9. If someone refutes your opinion, let it stop there. There is no need for rebuttal. Simply voice your willingness to consider the opinion that has been expressed and courteously refrain from expressing yours.
For years I have had a little hobby, that of trying to improve the disposition of disagreeable people. It is a wonderful little game that I play, and it is among my favorite hobbies. I was in a southern city returning a rented car. It was very early in the morning, probably an hour before sunrise. I went to the counter to return my papers and keys. I greeted the young lady behind the counter with "Good morning! How are you today?" She gave no reply; in fact, she didn't even look up. She simply took the papers and the keys and began her routine immediately I wanted to help her get in a good mood, so I started my little game of trying to make her happy Again I said, "Good morning! How are things going today?" Again there was no reply. Similar further attempts were made to brighten her day, and all ended in failure. I then leaned over the counter, looked up at her and said, "Why are you mad at me?"
She grinned and replied, "Mister, it's too early to be nice!"
I said to her, "Ma'am, it's just as early on this side of the counter as it is on that side of the counter."
She then began to laugh and thanked me for brightening her morning. We both went on our way rejoicing.
Several years ago I was in a small city in southern Louisiana. The dear pastor took me to lunch on Tuesday. He chose a little downtown restaurant, locally operated and obviously very popular. The waitress came to take our order. She was a little bit less than kind. (Ah, here was another splendid chance for me to practice my hobby!) The pastor ordered first, and then it was my time. I looked up with a smile and said, "I'll take a Big Mac, French fries and a chocolate shake." (We were not at McDonald's.) She looked at me sternly, then smiled and said, "Mister, a Big Mac sure beats anything we have to serve here!" I found that she was angry at her employer, and as I remember, she had decided to quit her job. When she replied that a Big Mac was better than their food, all of us laughed. My mission was accomplished! Well, nearly, for before I left the restaurant, it was my joy to lead her to Jesus Christ!
I was on an airplane flying to the Greensboro - High Point Winston-Salem Airport. I sat down beside a gentleman, well, at least I thought he would be a gentleman. I spoke to him. He did not reply I spoke again. There was no answer. (Ah, ha! Here is a chance for me to enjoy my hobby of cheering up a fellow human being.) I proceeded with such statements and questions as, "Isn't it a nice day?" etc. All of my attempts to gain a response failed. I then tapped him on the shoulder. He looked at me and I started using my hands as if I were speaking to him in the sign language. With a puzzled look on his face he asked, "Fellow, what are you doing?"
I said, "Sir, I thought perhaps you were deaf since you had not replied to any of my questions or statements, so I was trying to communicate in the sign language." He began to laugh immediately, shook my hand and introduced himself This gave me a chance to witness to him and to lead him to Christ. (Again, mission accomplished and hobby enjoyed!)
I was flying from Orlando, Florida, to Chicago. I had a change of planes in Tampa, Florida. Upon landing at the Tampa airport I found that my next flight would be three hours late. There are few places in the world more boring for three hours than an airport, so I went to the restaurant upstairs and was met at the entrance by a young waitress. She asked if I wanted a booth. I replied, "Yes, ma'am."
She led me to a booth and said, "Is this all right?"
I said, "Yes, ma'am."
She came back in a few minutes and said, "Sir, are you ready to order?"
I said, "Yes, ma'am."
She took her little order pad, threw it on the table in front of me, put her hands on her hips, and said in a gruff voice, "Yes, ma'am! Yes, ma'am! Yes, ma'am! Yes, ma'am! Yes, ma'am! Yes, ma'am! Yes, ma'am! Yes, ma'am! Don't you know any words, sir, other than 'Yes, ma'am'?"
I replied, "Yes, ma'am."
She turned and walked away abruptly upon receiving my order. When she came back she tossed my plate on the table, causing some of the food to spill. (Hey, here's a chance to do my hobby, but believe me, this one was a real challenge!) When she returned to give me my ticket, she turned her back, faced the other way and wrote my check. She then handed it behind her back to me and walked away angrily. I had had a light lunch; in fact, my ticket was only $1.67. As I left, I placed a $5 bill on the table and slowly walked toward the cash register. While I was paying my bill of $1.67, the little waitress came walking up and said abruptly, "Mister, you dropped some money on the table as you left," and handed me the $5 bill. I returned it to her saying, "Don't they tip in Tampa?" She broke! Tears filled her eyes and she asked, "Mister, did you leave me a $5 tip after I've been so rude to you?"
I said to her, "Young lady, you're not a bad person. You have a heartache. There is a reason why you were unkind to me, and I do not feel in any way negative about you." She continued to cry in that busy little restaurant filled with people, and she told me a sad story. Her husband had left her a few days before. She had had to get a job and the salary was not large enough to care for the children that he had left with her. She told me that she didn't want to live! Standing there in the busy restaurant, right at the entrance, I led her to Jesus Christ. Then she apologized for having been rude to me. (Praise the Lord! Mission accomplished! Mission more than accomplished; what a nice hobby!) A couple of hours later I was walking toward my airplane, and whom did I meet but this little waitress! I smiled and said, "Are you still saved?"
She shyly responded, through an impish grin, "Yes, ma'am!"
For years I have been trading at a little convenience, drive-in market called The White Hen Pantry. It is located just a few blocks from where I live, and it is convenient for me to stop by every morning on the way to work to purchase a USA TODAY newspaper, and occasionally I will make other purchases. One day an older lady who often waited on me there asked me, "What's wrong with you today?"
I replied, "Nothing. Why do you ask?"
She said, "This is the first time that you have ever been in here through these years without whistling or singing. There must be something wrong." She seemed a little sad and nearly out-of-sorts. (I immediately saw another opportunity to use my hobby) I told her that nothing was wrong.
She said, "Then why do you always sing and whistle?"
I said, "Because I am happy."
She said, "In this old sick world, how can you be happy?" I looked around and saw that there were no other customers there. This in itself was a miracle. I think the Lord dispatched an angel out in the street, telling folks to drive on by for awhile. For some time no one came in the store, giving me a chance to tell her why I am happy and to share with her that happiness. In a few moments she received the Author of that happiness as her Saviour. (Once again mission accomplished! Hobby enjoyed!)
Several years passed. One day I was requested to go visit a man who was very ill. He had asked for me. When I got to the house he told me why he wanted to see me. The lady whom I had won to Christ at The White Hen Pantry was his wife. I did not know it, but she had passed away not long before my visit with him, and he wanted to thank me for being so nice to his wife and to tell me how much she loved and appreciated me. I sat there with him on a Sunday afternoon and won him to Christ. Ah, hobbies have bonuses, don't they?
The Christian should always be working toward harmony Needless disagreements should be circumvented and avoided if at all possible. Most of our disagreements are so useless and needless, and so in our fundamental churches where we are so interwoven and have so much interaction, we need to be on constant guard to prevent them.
I love good music. Nearly every day of my life I take time to listen to classical music. I do not allow this kind of music to be used in our church because I believe that church music should be limited to hymns and Gospel songs, but in my personal life I often drive or eat with the classics as background music. The reason I love good
music is because good music is harmony of sound, and I want to dwell in harmony, which leads me to choose sound that is harmonious. This is one reason (among many) that rock music is wrong. It is sound with disharmony.
I love good literature, especially good poetry. I read it regularly and I write it often. Poetry is harmony of words and meter. Bad literature is words with disharmony. Good literature promotes harmony and is harmony.
I love good art; in fact, I often visit art galleries. I do this because good art is harmony of colors. Modem art, which often looks like someone has taken a canvas, squirted ketchup on it, thrown three raw eggs at it and stirred them with a touch of mustard, framed it and called it art, this is disharmony of color, whereas good art is harmony of color.
My favorite subject in school was algebra, because in algebra the balancing of the equation is the bringing of harmony. Here we have a harmony of numbers. Basically harmony is balancing life's equations.
I was staying in a hotel in Milford, Ohio. My room was on the fifth floor. As I got off the elevator, I was facing a wall. On that wall was a painting. That painting was crooked. I can't stand a crooked painting, so I straightened it. I went to my room, unpacked my bags and decided to go to the restaurant for a bowl of soup. While I was waiting for the elevator, I turned and looked at the painting. It was crooked again. I straightened it. I went down to the restaurant, ate a bowl of soup, came back up to the fifth floor. As I got off the elevator, I noticed the painting was crooked again. I straightened it. I went to my room, washed, brushed my teeth, got my Bible, went to the lobby where I was to be met and driven to the services. As I was waiting for the elevator, I noticed the painting was crooked again. I straightened it. I went to the church, preached, and was driven back to the hotel. When I got off the elevator, I noticed the painting was crooked again. I straightened it. I went to my room, went to bed, but I couldn't sleep. All I could think about was, "Is that painting crooked again?" I got out of bed, put on my pants and shirt over my pajamas, walked down the hallway to see if the painting was crooked or straight. It was crooked. I got on the elevator and went downstairs, walked to the desk and asked the night clerk if she had someone who could come up and straighten the painting on the fifth floor. She said that the maintenance men were all off for the evening and that there was no one who could do it. I asked her if she had a hammer and nails. She said she did. I said, "Would you let me borrow them so I can straighten that painting permanently?"
She said, "Sir, why do you want that painting straight?"
"Because I can't sleep!" I said.
She smiled and gave me a hammer and a nail. I went upstairs, straightened the painting, returned the hammer, returned to my room and got a good night's sleep. All was harmonious again.
I cannot stand needless disharmony Complaining affects me like a shovel being scraped against concrete. I try not to practice it, and I try not to be around people who do. It promotes disharmony and an unbalanced equation.
This is the reason that I do not go out to eat after services. I cannot be around the criticism of God's people by God's people. I simply refuse to listen to negatives. I do not want this computer on top of my shoulders called a mind to be programmed with negatives. I have people who need me to lift them, to comfort them, to proclaim victory to them, and I cannot do it if I live amidst talk that is not harmonious and if I program my computer with negatives.
A fundamental church should be a refuge, a haven, a pavilion, a shelter from the irritability of our critique infested society. If, in fact, a church is exactly this, its members must learn to live with their disagreements which, because we are human, will exist. If because we are Christians we can refrain from expressing disappointment of people; refrain from giving opinions that are not requested; refrain from fighting for our rights and our areas of authority; refrain from negative statements such as, "I don't agree!" or "You're wrong on that!" and allow each other to have the possibility of being at least partially right; refrain from expressing
our opinions unless they will help; ask ourselves, "Who probably has the best chance of being right here?" and refrain from responding when our opinion is refuted, we will have made at least some progress toward harmony and peace!
Don't forget our little hobby, that delightful little game of balancing human equations and promoting harmony between ourselves and those whom the will of God has brought close to us often on a daily basis and with whom the Holy Spirit has led us to interact. May that same Holy Spirit lead us to interact in such a way so as to treat properly and with grace those with whom we disagree.
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