Disagreeing in Love
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
Law students are a passionate bunch, and anyone who has taken a Constitutional Law class in law school knows this to be true. It often seems that those with the strongest views (and the willingness to defend them vigorously) have self-selected into the law, making classroom discussions a hotbed of disagreement that often devolve into unproductivity. In some ways, this trend is indicative of our larger culture; more and more Americans are unwilling to separate the opinion from the person, leading to coldness and animosity (Pew Research).
In a commentary on Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas said “We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject. For both have labored in the search for truth and both have helped us in the finding of it.” Here, Aquinas is expressing a deeply Biblical sentiment. Proverbs 15:1 tells us that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”; and Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” Likewise, Romans 14:19 instructs, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification”; and Galatians 5:22 reminds us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
In our divided world, Christians, and Christian law students in particular, have a unique opportunity and duty to bear witness to the love of Christ through our conversations with those with whom we may disagree. As we face the difficult conversations before us, let us remember to follow Ephesians 4:15 and always “speak the truth in love”.
All Bible verses included are from the New International Version translation.