Sermon Illustrations on Arguments/Disagreement

Background

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.

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 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.

Taking Convictions Seriously

We might say that convictions are firmly held moral or religious beliefs that guide our beliefs, actions, or choices…[M]ost Christians attach their convictions to Christ personally. In other words, we form our convictions in order to please Jesus, not ourselves. Convictions do not express what we think or feel or like but rather our best understanding of what we believe Jesus thinks or feels or likes.

Therefore, fellow believers who dispute our convictions are not saying that our convictions are displeasing to them; they are effectively saying that our convictions are displeasing to Jesus. Of course they would never put it that way, but it is natural for us to hear it that way. Christians are invested in their convictions and see them as an expression of their personal devotion to God, not merely as an expression of a personal preference.

Furthermore, Christian convictions are not just deeply personal acts of devotion, they are also grounded in absolutes. Christians usually grow their convictions in the soil of God’s Word. For us, God’s Word is infallible and authoritative, so conflicts would seem to arise from one of two unsavory possibilities: first, that our Christian opponent is actually not very Christian because he or she is denying the authority of God’s Word. Unsavory, indeed!

The other possibility is that our opponents are misrepresenting God’s Word. If it is done unintentionally, these people are simply negligent. If done intentionally, it is a matter of false teaching, and one might even say they are false prophets since they offer a false belief but claim it is coming from God. Christian disputes about convictions are easily supercharged with transcendent significance. It is fine to say we should major on the majors and minor on the minors, but for Christian convictions, nothing seems to be minor!

Adapted from Winsome Conviction by Tim Muehlhoff & Richard Langer Copyright (c) 2020 by Tim Muehlhoff & Richard Langer. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

 

Stories

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.

Donne, Undone

While movies and novels often present stories of a budding love interest willing to give up everything for “true love” (Romeo and Juliet, for example), the renowned poet, and later clergyman, John Donne really, actually did risk everything when he chose to secretly marry Ann Moore, daughter of Sir George Moore, at the time against the wishes of his father-in-law. 

Donne lost his position working in the office of the Great Seal, and the young couple had to flee their place in Sir Geroge’s home, taking refuge in a house in Pyrford, near his father-in-law. Upon arriving at his new home, the first thing the poet did was write on a pane of glass:

John Donne

An Donne

Undone.

Apparently, it stuck, for prior to this episode, Donne’s last name was actually spelled “Dun.”

Stuart Strachan Jr., Source Material from James Prior, Life of Edmond Malone, 1860.

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.

The Good News or the Bad News

I read in a book recently about a young pastor who was fired from his church over a theological controversy. When he went to share the news with his wife, he said, “I’ve got good news and bad news, which do you want first?” The wife said the good news. He said, “We get to sleep in next Sunday.” The bad news is, I don’t have a job anymore!

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Pro or Anti-Slavery?

Upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, President Lincoln was purported to have said that it was nice to meet the woman who started the Civil War. Stowe’s father was among the northern evangelical ministers who preached against slavery.

Other preachers from the south penned equally eloquent pro-slavery sermons. The church, like the country, found itself split by the slavery controversy. How could church leaders come to such different conclusions while reading the same Bible? Can we draw lessons from this defining moment in our history, or are we doomed to repeat it?

Matthew Sleeth, Serve God, Save the Planet, Zondervan.

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.

Humor

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.

The Good News or the Bad News

I read in a book recently about a young pastor who was fired from his church over a theological controversy. When he went to share the news with his wife, he said, “I’ve got good news and bad news, which do you want first?” The wife said the good news. He said, “We get to sleep in next Sunday.” The bad news is, I don’t have a job anymore!

Stuart Strachan Jr.

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.

More Resources

Related Themes

Click a topic below to explore more sermon illustrations! 

Anger

Arguments/Disagreements

Conflict

Problems

Revenge

Being Right

Speech

Violence

& Many More