We’ve set ourselves up for an impossible task. We have agreed to agree. In Circle of Hope we are not content to agree to disagree. We won’t avoid difficult topics. We won’t say “to each her own.” We won’t settle for a lesser mutuality. We have agreed to settle for nothing less than “being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:2) But as I said, this is impossible.
But God. If Paul thought it was possible in his letter to the Philippians, then we have agreed it must be for us, too … somehow.
I am not always sure of how it will be true, but I trust that it will be. I trust Jesus to make it true definitively someday, and I trust the Holy Spirit to be making it truer right now.
“For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12). The key to agreeing to agree is admitting that we do not know everything. In ancient times a reflection in a mirror was not so clear as it is now. So when you looked into a glass or mirror, you got a darkly idea of what was reflected. The metaphor is lost in a world that has DSLR cameras. But the reality is clear as ever. We don’t know everything. We feel strongly about many things, and wisdom is accessible to us now, but our disagreements must be held in tension and worked on every day until we all agree.
I am dismayed at how susceptible I am to the programming of our culture. The worst in me is being drawn out every day. The good feeling I get when my conviction is well articulated by someone else is a strong motivator for me. I want everyone to think like I do. It feels good. But this is not agreeing to agree. This is domination, and many pastors have taken it up as a tool for community-building. It is common practice to organize a community around a set of beliefs or principles that are defined and expounded by the person at the top of the hierarchy. That is not Circle of Hope. We rely on a dialogue of love—mutual understanding—bearing one another’s burdens—embracing the discomfort of empathy—vulnerability. In short, it’s much more intimate, embodied, not abstract or ideological which means it is a lot harder than checking off the boxes on a list.
But what is worth doing that is not worthy of the Holy Spirit’s power and all the gifts we have been given together? It seems clear to me that Jesus’ plan for the church was for us to be a community whose very existence called into question the conventional wisdom of its time. Refusing to agree to disagree is one sure-fire way to bring that gospel to our present with great flexibility. The world needs our expert-agreeing more than ever.
Because, no, we do not yet agree. It’s not just the culture tempting us with its lies. There are any number of critical issues that we are not in lockstep about. But our love and commitment is leading us toward agreement. Often finding agreement in an argument or debate is the best place to start. Then we can expand our mutuality from there. Next time you’re arguing or confronting (both of which are totally necessary if you are agreeing to agree) find something to agree about first. Listen to the person who has your hackles up and start by understanding them, and maybe even understanding your hackles.
Yes, it will take a long time to agree to agree and this goal may not be complete before Jesus comes, but this is who we are, and who God is helping us continue to be.