Can Two Walk Together in Disagreement? YES! Christian Unity is Not Uniformity

Can we walk together in disagreement? Yes.

Can we walk together in disagreement? Yes.

Can two walk together except they be agreed?  – Amos 3:3

It grieves the Spirit of our Father when the scriptures are so poorly handled as to misrepresent their meaning and His heart.

This verse is commonly used as the scriptural justification for brothers and sisters to separate from each other, to sever relationship, on any number of secondary issues. Regrettably, I have used it in the past, and have had it used on me, as recently as in the past few months.

I am getting more obsessive every day that I live, of the importance of context. I grow weary of the gross mishandling of scripture by ignoring context, and the damage such mishandling does to people. Without turning this blog into a lengthy teaching into the Hebrew and word meanings, etc., those who are inclined to show any effort at all, will find that if a modest amount of disciplined study would be applied to this verse, instead of shallow, reactionary, knee-jerk, proof-texting, we would see that the verse has NOTHING TO DO WITH breaking relationship with a brother or sister!

The idea in the verse is:

“If we do not agree on our final destination, we will never meet there.” 

Of course, that makes sense. It just means different routes will take us to different end-points.

Contextually, the prophet is speaking on behalf of God. God has been in long-standing covenantal relationship with Israel. Israel has been determined to pursue their own ends, their own “destination!” His desire for them, His anticipated end-point destination, and theirs are mutually incompatible, because theirs is rooted in sin! They will never result in the same outcome! The image is one of inevitability (as surely as a lion roars when it has prey, etc.)  of an unpleasant endpoint if Israel persists.

God loves them so much, He wants to arrive at the same endpoint, so He is going to chastise them . . . “child discipline” them. The text is clear that God is going to CONTINUE RELATIONSHIP WITH ISRAEL EVEN IN THEIR DISOBEDIENCE! He is going to maintain relationship with them . . . in unpleasant fatherly discipline!

This DOES NOT MEAN that two Christians cannot walk together along the way in their journey because we strongly disagree on some point of theology,  practice, or emphasis!

My goodness, if love, the bond of maturity (Col. 3:14) is so fragile that disagreement requires separation, we are to be pitied. 

This verse has no bearing on the mandate to get along with each other, forbear each other, love each other, walk with each other, etc. as we journey through life in general, and in Christ’s kingdom specifically.  We can leave judgments about the virtue and value of differing “end points” to the Only One qualified to make those judgments!

If you have ever used this verse to justify separating yourself from a brother or sister with whom you strongly disagree on some point, like I have regrettably done in the past, please repent to God, and to the people you have “cut off” or separated from relationally by the illegitimate manipulation of the scripture. The painful truth is, we cut people off because it is just too much hard work, it is too emotionally draining to maintain relationship. That may be, and God may grant us a season of slack, but please, let’s not degrade Him and His Word by slapping a bogus proof-text on our own weakness.

We CAN walk together when we disagree on secondary issues.

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8 comments on “Can Two Walk Together in Disagreement? YES! Christian Unity is Not Uniformity

  1. Hey Steve, just had a similar conversation with a sister who had this very problem with her son and daughter-in-law. I will pass this on to her. Thanks…good word.

  2. Stephen,
    I heartily agree with your thoughts expressed here. It seems more and more absurd to me that followers of Jesus would divide and separate from one another over matters of interpretation of the scriptures (on secondary matters, of course!). Is our unity in Jesus Himself or in our interpretation of the bible? Perhaps it is easier to surround ourselves with people who interpret the scriptures exactly like we do…but then I wonder where we will find opportunities to put the scriptures into practice, to actually exercise patience, forbearance, and forgiveness towards my brothers and sisters who may disagree with me. How, in the name of an esteem for the bible, do we so easily violate the most basic instructions found in its pages regarding how we are to relate to one another? And, most importantly, how can we take seriously the prayer of the our Lord (in John 17) – that our unity be expressed to the world he loves in a way that compels them to understand that He was sent by the Father – and simultaneously justify our divisions?

    I am enjoying a weekly gathering of brothers – for over a year now – with divergent views on many issues, but we share a common faith and devotion to Jesus that transcends our need to make each other interpret scriptures exactly the same. Our fellowship is rich, we learn a lot from each other, and we find ourselves exercising those “one another” muscles regularly. If we don’t actually love others who disagree with us, how do we know whether or not we are growing in the Lord (ref: 2 Peter)? How do we know we are not deceiving ourselves? Knowledge of the bible alone is not a legitimate measure of spiritual maturity or of a life pleasing to God.

    Thank you for posting your thoughts.
    It is good to know that I am not alone with my feelings and convictions about these things.

    I am always encouraged by the things you write…and challenged by them as well.

    Sean

    • thanks Sean, I too am pulling my head out of my Protestant closet and discovering there is a universe of wonderful brothers and sisters who don’t see things the way i do! Well, imagine that! LOL Sooner or later we, I hope, will all grow out of infantile “Corinthian sectarianism” 🙂 and move on in to John 17. Normally takes a bit of “the school of Calvary” to knock some ego, parochialism, and ambition out of us. 🙂

  3. “I am getting more obsessive every day that I live, of the importance of context. I grow weary of the gross mishandling of scripture by ignoring context, and the DAMAGE such mishandling does to people. ”
    RIGHT ON! If you haven’t looked at them yet, I would draw your attention to my “Revisiting Scripture” eBooks where I make the same…obsessive…point about context and the meaning to the original hearers. Even though we may disagree on various points, I imagine we could still walk together!

    • Thanks, Tom. I am continually amazed how in “conservative” circles, the principal of originality (What did the original writer mean, and what did the original hearers understand) is completely ignored in favor of junk proof-texting.

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