By / May 29

It would be hard to find someone more conservative than Cal Thomas. Once an architect of the Moral Majority, Thomas has been a longtime pundit and a syndicated columnist.

It would also be harder to find someone more liberal than Bob Beckel. Bob campaigned for Al Gore and was a left-wing fixture on cable news. Beckel and Thomas worked together for years at Fox News and, surprisingly, became close friends. When Beckel recently passed away, Thomas wrote this tribute to his friendship: 

We traveled together, ate together, and got to know each other and our respective “stories” in ways that rarely happen in Washington these days. At the end of our presentation, I would say that I rejected the notion that Bob was on “the other side.” Both of our fathers were in World War II. They weren’t fighting for or against Franklin Roosevelt, but to preserve an ideal. America has always been an idea in search of the ideal. If we want to put someone on the other side, make them external enemies like the Ayatollah in Iran, or the leadership in China and Russia. Let’s not destroy each other. We are fellow Americans.

Bob would then get up and say how I had saved his life and introduced him to God and other nice things. We embraced, prompting wild cheers from the audience. People would say, “Why can’t we see more of this in Washington?” It helped that neither of us were interested in running for office, which would mean having to raise money and say things to satisfy various interest groups.

At his memorial service this week there will be Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. It will be a moment of common ground. Bob was my closest and dearest friend. His hope and mine is that our friendship will serve as an example to others of what can be and must be if we are to survive as a nation.1“Beckel and Me: An Odd Couple | Cal Thomas,” News-Herald (blog), March 6, 2022, https://www.news-herald.com/2022/03/06/beckel-and-me-an-odd-couple-cal-thomas.

Is it possible to have friendships like this, with people who don’t share your politics? It seems increasingly difficult in this polarized age. And yet Thomas and Beckel modeled something refreshing and, I dare say, biblical. So how should Christians approach people with whom they disagree ideologically?

This isn’t exhaustive, but I’d like to offer four principles of engagement: 

1. Don’t be afraid of substantive disagreement 

Following Christ in this age or in any age will require us to hold beliefs that are at odds, at some point, with the prevailing culture. This doesn’t mean we’ve done something wrong. Instead, it means that what Jesus said to his disciples about the controversial way of the cross is true. Christians need courage in this age to boldly speak the truth. What the Scriptures say, for instance, about the sanctity of human life, sexual ethics, or care for the immigrant is unpopular in many places.

Sometimes, in our well-meaning attempts toward civility, we can be tempted to soften some of the edges of Scripture. We shouldn’t do that. It’s not loving to speak untruth. So to be a Christian in the world will mean, at some points, we will have disagreements with those around us as we remain faithful to God’s Word. 

2. Understand that Christians can be both courageous and civil

While our biblical convictions will bring us to a place of disagreement with many, we should understand that the Bible doesn’t just care about the substance of what we believe and declare, but how we say it. The Apostle Peter, no stranger to conflict, who wasn’t afraid to go to jail for his faith, nevertheless, instructs believers to “have an answer for every man for the hope that lies within you, but do it with gentleness and kindness” (1 Peter 3:15).

Peter is writing this to an early church that is facing increasing marginalization and persecution. Christians were losing jobs, losing friendships, losing cultural influence, all because they had the audacity to declare that Christ, and not Caesar, was king. 

And yet he urges the people of God to both stand firm on the truth of the gospel and to treat those who disagree with them with gentleness and kindness. The rightness of their worldview didn’t excuse rhetorical sins. There are no exceptions in the New Testament for not growing in the fruit of the Spirit.

3. Recognize the dignity of those with whom we disagree

The Apostle James also has a word for the way we engage arguments. To the early church, he wrote, “With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness (James 3:9).” James is warning against speech that assaults the humanity of God’s image-bearers. Why should we respect our ideological opponents and treat them with kindness even as we disagree? Because they were made in the image of God. 

Too often we are tempted to reduce someone’s whole existence down to that bad argument they make or that bad opinion, but they are whole people, made in the image of God. The opinion they hold, that belief system that anchors them is only one part of who they are. 

This is where Christians can be unique as battles rage in the public square. We can show the world a distinctly Christian way of speaking, that even as we make forceful arguments, we can do it with a kind of heavenly grace, where those who hear us may not agree, but know that we respect their humanity and dignity.

4. Engage arguments and resist caricatures

Tim Keller, in his book, Center Church, writes:2“Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City – Kindle Edition by Keller, Timothy. Religion & Spirituality Kindle EBooks @ Amazon.Com.,” 376–80, accessed April 8, 2022, https://www.amazon.com/Center-Church-Balanced-Gospel-Centered-Ministry-ebook/dp/B005JSGB5Q. 

Do all the work necessary until you can articulate the views of your opponent with such strength and clarity that he or she could say, “I couldn’t have said it better myself.” Then, and only then, will your polemics have integrity and actually have the possibility of being persuasive.

The temptation is to caricature the views of those we disagree with, in order to get a rise out of an audience sympathetic to our own views. So much of our public debates are not designed to persuade the unpersuadable, but signal to our own constituency that we are sufficiently mad at the other side. But if we really desire to engage, to persuade, to make arguments that those who are on the fence might believe, we need to engage arguments our ideological opponents are actually making, not straw men we knock down for sport. This is what Paul is getting at in 2 Corinthians: 

Since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-6).

We engage arguments with the truth of Scripture, in the power of the Spirit, and with genuine love for those who disagree. I want to end with this quote, from the man whose name is affixed to the center I lead, about someone on the other side of the political aisle. After her passing, former ERLC president, Richard Land, wrote this about former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright:3Richard D. Land and Christian Post Executive Editor, “An Evangelical’s Appreciation of Madeleine Albright,” The Christian Post, March 29, 2022, https://www.christianpost.com/voices/an-evangelicals-appreciation-of-madeleine-albright.html.

Madeleine Albright’s life provides a truly inspiring story of the triumph of the human spirit. While, as you would imagine, Madeleine and I had significant disagreements on many important issues, I always loved and appreciated Secretary Albright’s deep and abiding love for America—her adopted country.

The example of Land honoring Albright, despite very real ideological differences, is one we should seek to emulate, especially in our outrage culture. For Christians, showing respect to our fellow image-bearers is not an option. As we entrust ourselves, and this polarized age, to our sovereign Father, we don’t need more hostility, which only leads to more division. We need more fruit of the Spirit as we seek to speak the truth in love and set our hopes on the kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28). 

  • 1
    “Beckel and Me: An Odd Couple | Cal Thomas,” News-Herald (blog), March 6, 2022, https://www.news-herald.com/2022/03/06/beckel-and-me-an-odd-couple-cal-thomas.
  • 2
    “Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City – Kindle Edition by Keller, Timothy. Religion & Spirituality Kindle EBooks @ Amazon.Com.,” 376–80, accessed April 8, 2022, https://www.amazon.com/Center-Church-Balanced-Gospel-Centered-Ministry-ebook/dp/B005JSGB5Q.
  • 3
    Richard D. Land and Christian Post Executive Editor, “An Evangelical’s Appreciation of Madeleine Albright,” The Christian Post, March 29, 2022, https://www.christianpost.com/voices/an-evangelicals-appreciation-of-madeleine-albright.html.
By / Mar 7

After years of working with marriages, including my own, I’ve come to a conclusion: Marriages that struggle are often lacking one key ingredient. It’s something that, when missing from any relationship, will cause trouble in the relationship. The missing ingredient is called grace. And, when applied appropriately, it’s amazing.

If the marriage is struggling, one remedy is to apply more grace. Of course, it ultimately takes two people to make the marriage work, but one way to improve things is to interject more grace. When both parties are grace-giving to each other, the marriage can soar.

Here are seven acts of grace in a marriage:

Recognize differences – You first have to know them, but you have to give grace for your uniqueness. No two people in the world are alike and that’s never more evident than in a marriage relationship. The more you understand those differences the better you’ll be able to grow the strength of the marriage. And, if you live in the grace of marriage you’ll spend a lifetime in discovery…never believing you’ve got this person completely figured out, but always dating, always exploring new dreams together, always learning about each other.

Respect differences – It is not enough just to know the differences, you have to accept them. Respect them. This doesn’t mean making excuses for them but fully embracing the other person’s uniqueness as a gift to the marriage and allowing them to work for the marriage rather than against it. I’m an introvert. My wife is an extrovert. I can’t always be introverted and respect her extroversion. And vice-versa. I need to talk and listen sometime for her. She needs to allow quiet sometimes for me, but when we blend the two differences together, we become a power couple for the ministry God has given us.

Clear boundaries – Don’t hold your spouse accountable for what they don’t know. Understand the unique needs of each person to keep the marriage strong. Establish the boundaries that are reasonable and agreed upon by both spouses, then live within them. It’s not legalism, it’s giving grace to the other person. For example, I know that my wife needs quality time. It’s her love language. I extend grace to her when I protect my schedule to spend ample time with her during the week. She knows I am fueled on her respect of me, so she “graces” me by not speaking down to me in public.

Forgive easily – Have high standards for your marriage, but recognize two imperfect people are trying to uphold them. You’ll make mistakes. Both of you. You aren’t perfect. And, neither is the person you married. You extend grace when you practice granting forgiveness more than you practice holding a grudge.

Serve expecting nothing in return – Part of gracing one another is doing for each other with no strings attached. The goal is not a 50/50 partnership, but that each spouse extend 100% grace to one another. When a couple mutually submits to one another…even out-serving each other…the bond of the marriage is strengthened. (See Eph. 5:21)

Extend trust – A marriage won’t grow far beyond where trust is still being earned. Many of us bring our own hurts into a marriage. It can be difficult to place full confidence in the other person, especially after mistakes are made. For a marriage flourish, you have to risk being hurt and extend the grace of trust. (There will be those reading this who have had reasons to mistrust their spouse…I get that…and it takes time to recover from severe hurt in the marriage. At some point, however, for the marriage to ever be all it should be, a risk of trust will have to be given again. That takes grace.)

Love the mundane – Let’s be honest. We live in a fast-paced world and sometimes, if things aren’t moving fast enough, we can fall into routines and life can be boring. That bothers some of us more than others. For some of us, we love the big…the grandiose. We love the mountaintop weekends and the pinnacle vacations. We want every moment of our life to be extraordinaire. And, frankly, it’s not. It can’t be. And, if we aren’t careful, we can get bored even in the marriage. In fact, I’d be bold enough to say boredom is a leading cause of marriages that fall into trouble. It often starts there at least. Grace in a marriage means that we learn to love the highs…which is easy…and the lows…which is hard…and the mundane…which is sometimes…for some people…the hardest of all.

Can I ask you a question? Will you be honest with yourself?

Read the original post here.