So, my Singaporean brother/sister, who will you be voting for this Friday? I could not have asked this question of all Singaporean Christians in previous Singapore general elections because not all seats were contested. Not this time. This is a historic general election. Every seat is contested. So who will you be voting for?
Some of you will be voting for the PAP. Others, one of the opposition parties. Following the discussions on social media, I see that some followers of Jesus are passionately committed to one side or another. And this has led to some heated debates. Which brings me to another question: how should Christians discuss issues when they strongly disagree? We should “carefront”.
The term was first coined by David Augsburger in his book Caring Enough to Confront (Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 1973). He argues that conflict is a given in human relationships and gives a number of unhelpful ways we deal with conflict. He then proposes an approach he calls “carefronting”. He summarises this approach:
Caring — I want to stay in respectful relationships with you, and confronting — I want you to know where I stand and what I’m feeling, needing, valuing and wanting. (15)
Carefronting seems to be a way we can carry out the biblical injunction to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Carefronting reminds us to distinguish the relationship from the issue. If I have a very strong disagreement with a brother, I must never forget he is my brother. I am called to love him with agape love. Indeed I am expected to lay down my life for him. So even if we strongly disagree on an issue, I must never forget that he is my brother and I must treat him with dignity and respect. This must guide what I say and, perhaps more importantly, how I say it.
But carefronting also calls us to be true to our convictions. We are to say what we truly believe. Indeed it is in honest discussion that we discover if what we believe is tenable. And surely Christians are committed to finding out the truth and surely that includes listening carefully to those who do not agree with our views. At the end of the day we may not change our position but we may have a more mature and nuanced view of an issue. Things are rarely as simple as they first appear.
This side of heaven, we see in a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12). That alone means we should be humble in our positions and willing to listen to those who disagree with us. Only the Bible properly interpreted is infallible. But one thing is crystal clear — God expects His people to love one another with agape love. That is always true no matter who you vote for on Friday.
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