Will we walk well with the other side?
“Now that same day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. Together they were discussing everything that had taken place. And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus himself came near and began to walk along with them” (Luke 24:13-15).
Imagine you are sitting behind your computer screen scrolling through a feed when a friend from church posts a comment about a social or political issue on which you vehemently disagree. Shocked, you put fingers to keyboard to weigh in your viewpoint, and an online argument ensues.
Now imagine that Jesus is sitting there with you. Would it change how you responded? Would it cause you to pause or perhaps not post at all? Would it stir you to pray?
The disciples who walked the road to Emmaus were actually discussing something even more important than politics or a pandemic. For the disciples, the freedom of Israel hung in the balance. They weren’t just disagreeing about a political candidate who would temporarily lead the nation for four years. They were “discussing and arguing” about Jesus, the one they thought had come to redeem Israel for eternity.
Even though their hopes were completely dashed and they clearly had different perspectives about what had happened with Jesus, they kept walking with one another. Nothing in the text indicates that they called each other names, dehumanized, vilified or disengaged. This was literally a matter of life and death to them. They were exhausted and emotional, yet they kept walking with one another.
These Emmaus disciples model how to disagree well. Could we learn something from them? I think so.
There is power in walking together, even when you disagree.
The night before Jesus went to the cross, he prayed for unity within his Church:
“May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you have sent me” (John 17:21).
Jesus knew even those of us in the Church wouldn’t agree on every matter. Yet, he prayed for us to be one, so that we would be a witness to a watching world.
When believers argue and tear one another down, we essentially tear down our own testimony of the power of God in our lives.
When we recoil or strike instead of reason with “gentleness and respect”, we stop being light and salt to a dark and decaying world.
The apostle Paul knew the vital importance of unity among believers as well:
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
We must honestly ask ourselves, are we eager to maintain unity? Or are we more earnest to prove we are right? Bearing with one another in love doesn’t mean agreeing on every issue. But it does mean staying committed to each other as a brother or sister in Christ and engaging in love, not lashing out in anger or disgust.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us...” (Ephesians 4:31 – 5:2).
The journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus was seven miles, a number symbolizing completion in Scripture. In the midst of their disagreement, the resurrected Jesus himself came near to them. These disciples were on that journey, not knowing that Jesus himself would reveal the truth to them as he walked with them.
We the Church can keep walking in love with our brothers and sisters who see things differently than we do, because Jesus walks with us through his Holy Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit – the same one all believers share - is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We would all do well in such a combative time to meditate on these character traits of God and ask Him to produce the fruit of His Spirit within us.
“Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. We must not become conceited, provoking one another …” (Galatians 5:25).
When we believe and act like our viewpoint is the only possible way to see an issue, then we put ourselves at risk of becoming “conceited”. In order to love one another well, we must listen with the consideration that we could have some things wrong or are just missing some perspective altogether. This is exceedingly difficult for those of us who love to be right or see things in the silo of black and white.
We must listen with an open mind and help one another see things not as how we think they are but how the Holy Spirit illuminates them to be in Scripture.
We must keep Christ at the center of our conversations, not abusing Scripture by misuse or using it as a sword on one another but relying on it as the ultimate source of truth.
“What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” Jesus asked them. “And they stopped walking and looked discouraged.”
I honestly don’t know a single person who hasn’t felt discouraged at some point this past year, between the coronavirus, racial unrest, presidential election and all that ensued, or something else altogether. There has been plenty about which to be sad and shocked.
But just as he did with the Emmaus disciples, Jesus enters into our discouragement. Where we have confusion, Jesus offers clarity as we abide in Him.
When Jesus asked them what they were arguing about, it wasn’t because he didn’t already know. He was providing a listening ear to build relationship with them. He condescended to listen because he cared. Can you imagine the risen Christ having such patience that he let these bewildered disciples pour out their divided hearts to him? Jesus let them talk through it, even though he held all the answers.
If Jesus, who knows all, can listen to us in love, then shouldn’t we who are fallible also resolve to listen to one another?
“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19).
Jesus ultimately had the final word. He “interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27). We need Jesus to interpret for us today how to apply His unchanging, unfailing Word to our lives in a world that is increasingly complicated and in a Church that is increasingly divided.
Because Jesus still has the final word.
Let us pray that our worldview will be shaped by the truth of Scripture, instead of Scripture being shaped by the lies of society.
Once the disciples and Jesus had walked the seven miles to the village of Emmaus, they shared a meal together. Jesus “took the bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to them.” Jesus, the Bread of Life, who was broken for us and gave his life for us, has given us His Spirit to help guide us through these times of dissension. He is praying for us even now (Romans 8:34).
“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come” (John 16:13).
These disciples shared the body of Christ and “then their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (Luke 24:30-31). Jesus, the way, the truth and the life, led these men to understand his redemption plan that began long before that week in Jerusalem.
May Jesus open our eyes to see one another the way he sees us.
We the Church, as members of the body of Christ, must keep engaging those with whom we disagree. We must sit at the proverbial table and let Jesus do his work. Engaging doesn’t mean provoking. It also doesn’t mean compromising biblical values and convictions. Even if the others’ view is clearly antibiblical, we should walk with them and model the mercy, compassion, and patience of Christ.
Afterall, it is the Lord’s kindness that leads us all to repentance (Romans 2:4).
Our spirit may be willing to do this, but our flesh is weak when it comes to being charitable towards another who voted differently or who views a controversial issue the complete opposite way as you.
But we need to keep walking the long road to understanding and respecting one another, even if we don’t agree. Because Jesus will be with us, and he will guide us into all truth as we abide in Him.
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20).
Before you disagree with someone, pray. Ask Jesus to enter into that conversation with you. Resolve to love that person regardless of what is said. And then listen and ask God to help you hear every word through the filter of His Word. Then speak the truth in love, knowing that is the only way to walk with a brother or sister in Christ.