Sermon illustrations



Anxiety in Disagreements

Anxiety sparks when a perspective we value bumps into another perspective that challenges it in some way. If we find this new perspective to be unacceptable, that’s when our “Someone is wrong on the internet; I must correct them!” impulse leaps into action. When anxiety sparks—poof! —it’s like a little anxious dragon is born in our minds, ready to light things on fire. It’s the first sign of a disagreement potentially on its way.

Buster Benson, Why Are We Yelling?: The Art of Productive Disagreement, Penguin Publishing Group, 2019, p. 47.

Arguments are Everywhere

We argue with our alarm clock, which insists we wake up. We argue with our clothes that wear out or stop fitting. We argue with our bodies, we argue with our pets, we argue with bumps in the sidewalk that we almost trip on, we argue with cars in traffic, we argue with our bosses and teachers and parents, we argue with computers and technology, we argue with our friends and relatives, we argue with our spouses and children, we argue with the television, we argue with the sky. We argue with ourselves. And when we asleep, arguments creep into our dreams as well. No wonder we’re yelling—it’s exhausting!

Buster Benson, Why Are We Yelling? Penguin Publishing Group, 2019.

Choosing a Hymn (Is Not as Easy as You Might Think)

From the Hayes Parish Church on 18 March 1749:

The Clerk gave out the 100th Psalm, and the Singers immediately opposed him, and sang the 15th and bred a disturbance.

Hayes Parish Register.

The Dueling Fish

One of my friends developed a PowerPoint presentation with a set of “dueling fish” images to illustrate this point. In the first image, a believer puts a Jesus fish on his car. Then his atheist neighbor responds with a Darwin fish. Then the Christian takes off his Jesus fish and replaces it with a Jesus-fish-eats-Darwin-fish.

On and on the slides go, until the audience is laughing at the absurdity of it all. Here’s my question: What are the odds that the Christian and atheist dueling with their car decals will ever sit down to discuss their perspectives? Not very good. It’s much more likely they’ll become cynical and angry and communicate even less. Unless we learn to think more clearly and dialogue more openly, our society is in for a rough time. Thoughtfulness is vital for everyone. But as a Christian I feel the need to start in house. Jesus followers ought to lead the way.

Jeff Myers, Unquestioned Answers: Rethinking Ten Christian Clichés to Rediscover Biblical Truths, David C Cook, 2020.

A Failure to Appreciate the Other’s Point of View

Most quarrels are due to a misunderstanding, and the misunderstanding is due to our failure to appreciate the other person’s point of view. It is more natural to us to talk than to listen, to argue than to submit. This is true in industrial disputes as much as in domestic quarrels.

Many conflicts in the world of employment could be resolved if both sides first examined themselves critically and then examined the other side charitably, rather than our normal practice of being charitable to ourselves and critical of others. The same could be said of complex international unrest. The tensions of today are due largely to fear and foolishness. Our outlook is one-sided. We exaggerate the virtues in ourselves and the vices in others.

Taken from Basic Christianity The IVP Signature Collection  by John Stott. Copyright (c) 2019 by John Stott, pp.105-106. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

The Fruit of a Productive Disagreement

A productive disagreement yields fruit: the fruit of security, by removing a threat, reducing a risk, resulting in a deal, or concluding with a decision; the fruit of growth, by revealing new information about the world or each other that makes us see and understand reality more deeply; the fruit of connection, by bringing us together and giving us opportunities to forge trust with one another; and the fruit of enjoyment, by teaching us to operate with a collaborative mind-set that emphasizes playfulness, adventure, fun, and sometimes even awe.

Why Are We Yelling? Penguin Publishing Group, 2019, p.30

The Golden Result

The Golden Result is a corollary to the Golden Rule, which calls us to do to others as we would have them do to us. The Golden Result says that people will usually treat us as we treat them. If we blame others for a problem, they will usually blame in return. But if we say, “I was wrong,” it is amazing how often the response will be, “It was my fault too.” I have seen this result in hundreds of cases over the past twenty-one years. Whether the dispute involves a personal quarrel, divorce, lawsuit, or church division, people generally treat one another as they are being treated.

When one person attacks and accuses, so does the other. And when God moves one person to start getting the log out of his or her own eye, it is rare that the other side fails to do the same. The Golden Result occurs most often with people who understand and cherish the gospel. When we admit that our own sins are so serious that Jesus had to die for us, and remember that he has forgiven us for all our wrongs, we can let go of our illusion of self-righteousness and freely admit our failures. When we do this, we experience the wonderful gift of God’s forgiveness. And in many cases, he will be pleased to use our confessions to help others see the logs in their eyes.

Ken Sande, The Peacemaker, Baker Publishing Group.

The Key Word in a Disagreement

The key word in our definition of a disagreement (an unacceptable difference between two perspectives), isn’t “difference.” It’s “unacceptable.” Once the clash between perspectives becomes unacceptable, our motivation shifts from understanding minds to changing them, and from that shift springs a world of trouble. We can change our own beliefs and our own behaviors, but when it comes to changing other people, our options are more limited and the results can vary wildly.

…Sometimes our attempts to change minds can actually have the opposite effect, making people dig in their heels even deeper in their current belief. It’s called the backfire effect. Trying to persuade people too much can backfire. For example: You have two good friends who start dating. When they break up, one of the friends asks you to stop being friends with the other. The backfire effect might lead you to actually reach out to the other friend or even to sympathize with them more.

Buster Benson, Why Are We Yelling? Penguin Publishing Group, 2019, p. 41-42.

Hearing God’s Voice in an Argument

A friend of mine named T (seriously, that’s his name) says something really weird happened to him once, right after he got married. He heard God say something. Or he thinks he did, anyway. The content of the short message smacked him in the face, he told me. “So my wife and I were having a big argument about something, and I was totally right,” he said.

“You know how most of the time you might be right or you’re both kind of right, or something, but this time—totally seriously—I was absolutely right, and I knew it, and it was incredibly frustrating. I was so angry.

She was absolutely being wrong.” So what happened? “I went in our bedroom and I was seething. And that’s when something popped in my head, and it practically knocked me over. I honestly think it was something God was telling me directly. Totally stopped me in my tracks.” And what was that? “It was, ‘So, do you want me to judge her right now?’” Whoa.

Brent Hansen, The Truth about Us: The Very Good News about How Very Bad We Are, Baker Publishing Group.

Solving the World’s Problems

Warren Robinson Austin was an American politician and diplomat serving both in the U.S. Senate and the United Nations as a U.S. ambassador. During a debate, Austin was asked how he would approach the conflict in the Middle East, specifically between Jew and Arabs. Austin’s advice was simple: sit them down and have them settle their differences “like good Christians.”

Stuart Strachan, Source Material from Clifton Fadiman, Bartlett’s Book of Anecdotes.

See also Illustrations on Anger, Conflict, Problems, RevengeBeing Right, Speech, Violence