By Luke Nix

While We All Want to Believe That We Are Committed to Truth Rather Than A Narrative, Our Actions In Conversation—How We Mistreat Evidence, Mischaracterize Opposing Views And Arguments, And Attack The Challenger Rather Than The Challenge—Often Tell A Different Story.” Luke Nix

Finding Common Ground In A Time of Stark Division

The Importance of Recognizing Common Ground

In these times of stark division, it is important that we not allow our disagreements to ultimately result in the destruction of our unity as a society, culture, and Church. There is nothing wrong with a society having a diversity of ideas, as long as those ideas are discussed and debated respectfully. When the wrong ideas are identified, such a respectful dialog can result in the dismissal of false ideas and the acceptance of true ideas. This is progress. Progress towards the objective goal of a society that has and lives according to the view of reality as it actually is and not some delusion.

However, many times discussion is stifled because we do not recognize common ground with those in which we disagree. When we possess and recognize common ground, we have a connection to maintain a healthy relationship when we have stark disagreements and rigorously debate which view (if either) accurately reflect reality. Today I want to point out six different things that we all hold in common that, if recognized by even one side, can help keep relationships healthy despite disagreements.

The Image of God

We are all created in the Image of God, thus we are all intrinsically, equally valuable. No matter how strongly we disagree with the other person, they ultimately have just as much value as we do and are worthy of our love and respect. No matter how disrespectful or unloving they are in their discussion or behavior towards us or others, this value remains in tact and stands as a reminder to us that a disrespectful or unloving posture towards them is never justified. We must remember that behind every challenge is a challenger. The challenge must be dealt with logically and evidentially, but the challenger must be addressed lovingly and respectfully.

Our Sinfulness

We are all sinners that have fallen short of God’s objective, moral standard, thus there will be evil committed by people against people. While we are all created in God’s Image and possess intrinsic and equal value, this does not mean that any of us is perfect. People will offend us. We will offend others. People will deeply hurt us, and we will deeply hurt others. People will sin against us, and, yes, we will sin against others. It is important to recognize that we will all fail and must treat each other, even those with whom we disagree, with the grace and forgiveness that we would like to be treated  when we sin. And if we expect others to humbly accept correction, then we must also humbly accept correction when we make mistakes.

Christ’s Forgiveness

We are all sinful, but we are all loved by our morally perfect Creator. Jesus died and rose from the dead so that all people could receive the forgiveness necessary so that we can spend eternity with our Creator and each other. We are all in this same boat. No person needs Christ’s forgiveness any more or less than another; no person deserves Christ’s forgiveness any more or less than another, but every person must accept Christ’s forgiveness. We are all equally in need of forgiveness, and as long as we are still alive, Christ’s forgiveness is available. Thus we should never condemn another to hell because of their current worldview or moral position. Rather we should prayerfully pursue persuasion with evidence, logic, love, gentleness, and respect.

Our Fear

Our fear of being wrong and how changing a view may impact our other views and relationships. Many times when we are presenting evidence for a conclusion that someone opposes, it is not necessarily the evidence that the other person finds lacking but rather the possible implications of changing their mind. Some undesirable implications are perceived to be logical, and we must show either how the perceived implications do not logically follow (thus are not logically required to be consistent) or are not what they seem. Other undesired implications can be relational, and we must compassionately encourage those who may suffer severed or damaged relationships for accepting what is demonstrated to be true. We must remember our own experiences with these fears and patiently guide others while, of course, keeping the above common ground in mind because they may actually be doing the same for us while we may be the ones with these fears.

Our Questions and Doubts

We do not know everything, nor can we know everything. The same goes for everyone else. We will all have doubts and questions that we think must be answered before we can change our view. But not every little question and challenge can be answered about every view that we discuss. That is okay because not every question or challenge, if not answered the way we want or expect, presents a defeater for the view we’re questioning. Just as we expect others to consider the evidence that we present for our view and honestly consider if their questions or challenges truly undermine our evidence, we must be willing to engage in those considerations of their evidence and our questions as well. If we expect others to consider if they are just offering excuses to avoid changing their mind, we must be willing to demand the same of ourselves.

Our Choice

Finally, we all have the choice to either defend our narrative, or we can defend what is true about this world. We must choose to be committed to what is true, no matter the cost to ourselves; or we must be committed to what we want, no matter the cost to others. No doubt, it is objectively true that a commitment to truth, sacrificing self, is noble; and a commitment to self, sacrificing others, is despicable. Making this choice takes honesty, humility, and self-reflection, and frankly it can be a struggle. While we all want to believe that we are committed to truth rather than a narrative, our actions in conversation—how we mistreat evidence, mischaracterize opposing views and arguments, and attack the challenger rather than the challenge—often tell a different story. It is definitely true that “actions speak louder than words,” and it is time that we recognize that we must not merely apply that to others but to ourselves as well. As we struggle through this decision and recall the struggle, we can be more patient with and offer encouragement to those who are currently in the middle of the struggle.

Remembering that we hold much common ground with those we disagree with, often struggling in the past or in the present, and knowing that we desire gentleness and respect in those struggles, it is a most reasonable and loving expectation that we treat them as we wish for them to treat us. We should never be cold in our conversations; emotional warmth is necessary. Wisely conducting our conversations in the context of our common ground allows us to turn up the heat on the issues without burning the person behind the questions.

Recommended resources related to the topic:

Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl (Book)

Defending the Faith on Campus by Frank Turek (DVD Set, mp4 Download set, and Complete Package)



Luke Nix holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and works as a Desktop Support Manager for a local precious metal exchange company in Oklahoma.

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