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How to Disagree with Winsome Conviction

Dr. Chris and Alisa Grace pose for the cover of The Art of Relationships Podcast.

There are times during conflict when our strong convictions can cause us to lose our relationships. Conflict is universal - we all face conflict at some point. But, are we managing the issues that divide us in a way that actually makes our relationships healthier? In this week's episode, Dr. Chris Grace and Dr. Tim Muehlhoff talk about how to disagree well in our relationships and within the church with Winsome Conviction.

Mandy:    Welcome to another Art of Relationships podcast. We are grateful for listeners like you. Let's get right into it. 

Chris Grace:    Tim, it's always good to do another podcast. Thank you, too, for that awesome introduction and lead in by Mandy. It's just awesome to hear her voice leading in on that. Tim, we've been doing this podcast for a while now. We talk about all things relationships, and when we do, it's so fun because it feels like this is a never-ending topic, and we'll never plumb the depths. I mean, it started with Adam and Eve, and from that point on, man, this is a deep topic, isn't it, relationships?

Tim Muehlhoff:    well, yeah, and we tend to idealize the Christian relationships. We say, okay, the church does it different, or a Christian marriage is qualitatively different. Interesting, in the New Testament, Chris, quarreling is mentioned over and over and over among Christians. Paul's always having to jump in and say, guys, what is this I hear that there's quarreling happening among you? So Christians are not immune to conflict issues or quarreling about a ton of different issues.

Chris Grace:    So in relationships, we spend time looking at healthy relationships and what it means to be emotionally healthy, what it means to date well, to be married well. Tim, you bring up this idea that the other side of that coin is when relationships don't go well, right? Toxic relationships. We've covered topics in here on toxic relationships. But somewhere in between is this idea of conflict or this idea of quarreling, and I mean in between. All relationships struggle, right? I mean, you oftentimes hear this, but it's not a matter if your relationship has conflict or not. Every marriage, every relationship has conflict. It's just a matter, then, not of, oh, ending it because you see the presence of conflict for the first time. Tim, that word is manage. It's how do you manage the conflict? In fact, you can manage conflict in a way to make your relationship even healthier.

Tim Muehlhoff:    We're both speaker couples for Family Life marriage conferences. I must say that I'm the senior speaker, and Chris and Lisa are just newbies, but that's beside the point. I'm on a tangent. One point we do in the conference that is so fun, it brings the house down every single time, is we say, okay, turn to the couple next to you and say to them, "We fight too." And Chris, it brings the house down, because it's so good just to say that. Every couple has disagreements, has arguments. Every church goes through disagreements. Every Christian university, every community. Man, conflict is universal, part of the fallen condition, but it follows us everywhere.

Chris Grace:    Tim, why is it, you're a communication expert, I'm a psychologist, why is it that some conflicts just seem harder or deeper or more profound? Is it just simply because ... if we disagree about a sports team, ah, we disagree, right?

Tim Muehlhoff:    Yeah.

Chris Grace:    If we disagree about maybe the right way to drive or to clean the house or to save or spend money, those can be, maybe they can be a nuisance, but they can also tap into something much deeper. Those much deeper things are when we hold strong convictions about it, right? So if I hold a conviction about, let's say, saving money or spending money or house cleaning, the arguments we find, and we talk so much about this, is that argument might be about housework, it might be about finances, but interestingly enough and very importantly, it is about something much deeper. It's about stronger held convictions.

Tim Muehlhoff:    That's right. That's right, and here's what messes it up within the Christian community, Chris. It's one thing for you and I to have a disagreement, and we've been friends for, gosh, who knows? A long time. I had hair. We'll just put that in context right there. So you and I can have a disagreement about something, but it gets really interesting when I say, "No, Chris, this is a Biblical conviction. I have a Biblical conviction about this," and you say, "Well, interesting. I don't have that Biblical conviction," or, "I have a Biblical conviction that not only disagrees with you, but puts yours in question." Now it's like we both played our trump card, and now where do you go from it? "Chris, this is what the Bible says," and you say, "Tim, it doesn't say that," or, "I believe it says something different."

Chris Grace:    And Tim, I think what's important even at a friendship level is when that Biblical conviction is so tied into ... let's just give an example, a political ideology. Here's an idea. I have such strong convictions, like you do, that abortion is wrong, okay? We both agree on that. But if I believe one political party elevates the position of pro-life stronger than another, then I'm going to vote for that, and I can fall into the trap of saying that that's more Biblical. In fact, I might even think to myself, if you vote that way, then how could you even call yourself a Christian, right? I mean, it's that strong of a conviction.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Oh yeah, and you and I gladly teach at a university that makes no qualms about where we fall on this issue. Biola is unapologetically pro-life. We sign a doctrinal statement every year that says, hey, we've not changed on this issue, because you're not teaching at Biola University anymore if you're not pro-life. But then, Chris, I had a friend of mine say this to me. It's so funny because you just stop and you go, wow, I have never thought of that. He goes, "Listen, without a doubt, the most pro-life party are the Democrats." I just looked at him, Chris, like what are you talking about? He goes, "Well, listen, the biggest existential threat we have as a species is global warming," and again, these are over-generalizations, but generally speaking, the Republicans don't put a lot of stock in it and the Democrats really do. Chris, I never thought about that before. Like, the wiping out of the species, you're pretty pro-life, do you know what I mean? 

    So I love what you just said. I think you said it really well. Not only do we get into this Biblical disagreement, here's my Biblical conviction, you said but here's a more deeper Biblical conviction. Now we're trumping biblical convictions, because in a weird subtext moment, Chris, when you and I are having a disagreement, and I say it is my Biblical conviction, the subtext clearly is, by the way, you read that Bible too. This ought to be yours, right?

Chris Grace:    I think that's really, Tim, important now in this culture, in this environment where we can so easily find ourselves at odds with another person that we love, that we care about, and that we just ... Now, you know, you think, well, wait a minute, global warming. So you come up with the arguments.

Tim Muehlhoff:    So let's just carry this on. I would say, "Oh, Tim, there is absolutely no way global warming has killed any human yet, and yet the number of abortions on a day to day basis is staggering, so how could you make this comparison?" Well, of course he's not here to defend that argument and we're just making it an analogy. But now we're going to argue about numbers and now we're going to argue about things, when deep down in reality, I'm starting to question your own walk or your own Christian views, and I'm thinking, "How could you make this comparison?" And then on Sunday, we're sitting two pews away from each other, or we happen to be part of the same family, or my in-law, you're my spouse, you're a child, and it's like, hey, kind of a thing. Now it's real because I can't get away from it.

Chris Grace:    And so I think what we do, Tim, I think what we do, is I am going to avoid, as much as possible, that conversation. If it comes up at dinner, I'm just going to say, "Hey, hey, anybody watch the basketball game tonight?" because there is no way I'm going to start this argument because it makes me get too upset, and I start thinking bad thoughts, not just about you, but I think you have bad thoughts about me, right?

Tim Muehlhoff:    And that's latent conflict, and that's emotional contagion. We've covered that topic a ton of times. This idea that you can just not talk about it, but at the same time harbor bad attitudes, and you think the marriage is going to be okay, the organization's going to be okay. Boy, that's not reality, and it is already bleeding into the relationship.

Chris Grace:    Well, I wish we had some resource about how to disagree well in relationships and how to disagree well within the church.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Where could that be, Chris?

Chris Grace:    I know, but if you have a strong conviction and you want to winsomely keep that without losing your friendships, Tim, I don't know. I mean, where would I go? I guess I Google in winsome conviction, how to disagree without dividing the church, something like that. And if you did Google that in, you're going to come up with one book title that's amazing. Tim, it's called Winsome Conviction, Disagreeing Without Dividing the Church, and it's authored by a guy named Rick Langer, who is one of our good buddies, and yet ... oh wait, there's two authors.

Tim Muehlhoff:    There's two names.

Chris Grace:    Muehlhoff and Langer, authors of Winsome Persuasion. So Tim, why did you write the book, Winsome Conviction? What's going on?

Tim Muehlhoff:    Well, honestly, and we're all good friends with Rick. Rick and Sherry, they've been in our marriage group forever. They're just a great couple. We wrote this book, Winsome Persuasion, Christian Influence in a Post-Christian World, and it was all about sharing with those outside the Christian community. As we write this book, pastors are saying to us, Christians are saying to us, hey listen, it's great. Of course, we need to learn to communicate with those outside the Christian community. But we're doing a really bad job inside the Christian community. One pastor said this, Chris. It really opened our eyes. He said, "Listen, I expect a non-Christian to disagree with me because he's operating, she's operating from a totally different worldview. It hurts when I think I'm upholding a Biblical standard and I'm getting disagreed with from a fellow believer." It's like dude, we're supposed to be on the same side, and yet there's tension between us, conflict between us.

Chris Grace:    Gosh, I remember an old book. Well, it's not that old, frankly, but an author named Mark McMinn, who's still an awesome psychologist. I think he's up in Oregon still. We bring him down to Biola. He wrote about this idea of being caught in the crossfire, and that crossfire, okay, I can fight the enemy in front of me, let's say, who maybe we disagree with not just on politics, but on deep things like religion, Tim. But Mark, Christians in the Crossfire, talk about getting shot from behind. Tim, that's where it starts to hurt. Wait, we're on the same team. How could you be shooting at me? Aren't we on the same page? What's going on here? So no wonder these pastors are like, "We are taking casualties because of the internal fight, conviction quarreling that is killing the church."

Tim Muehlhoff:    And this is kind of how it works, Chris, is there's like macro agreements, but then the devil's in the detail. Noreen and I, man, we were only married a year and we go live overseas. We're on a small team. There's six of us, three couples, and we're with an evangelistic organization. We're with Campus Crusade for Christ. It's now called Cru. You poll each one of us and say, "How important is evangelism?" We're like, "Crazy important. We've raised money, we're living a year in Lithuania." Until one person on the team, super sharp guy, man of conviction, believes a very interesting point about evangelism, that nothing a person can do gains any favor or notice by God. So all of your best things are filthy rags before God. 

    So now every meeting devolves into this conversation. Evangelistic meeting, Lithuanians are trying to convince us, okay, a blind woman is crossing the street with a baby in her arms, a bus is coming towards her. I push her away, I'm killed by the bus. How does God view it? This gentleman, filthy rags. Okay, did I mention twins? I finally had to sit down and say, "Listen, it is okay for you to have this personal conviction. You are not to share it publicly because we're not doing this again and again and again." He said, "This is my conviction before the Lord." And Chris, welcome to Christian ... we all agree about certain things, but how to do them, how to allocate resources, that's when Christians look at each other and say, "How can this not be the most important thing about the church or our family?" And you go, "Well, because it's not the most important thing, and that is what really hurts, because you both want to do God's will.

Chris Grace:    Yeah. It's hard to come up with examples. Let me just pull some out of thin air. Donald Trump, I don't know, probably not. Black Lives Matter, probably not. COVID, wearing a mask. I really don't think-

Tim Muehlhoff:    It's so hard to come up with some.

Chris Grace:    I don't think any of those three will work. I don't know, Tim. Do any of those three work? What in the world? You're sitting next to somebody who doesn't want to wear a mask during COVID, or you're sitting next to somebody who is so anti-Trump that you're thinking, "My goodness, can you just stop for a minute and stop the hatred and stop judging?" They're so against, I don't know, whatever conviction it might be.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Chris, we literally re-wrote the intro three times. We had the perfect one. Remember, President Trump was going to be impeached, and the head of, at the time, Christianity Today, a leading Christian magazine ...

Chris Grace:    He wrote a blog.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Yeah, he wrote a blog saying, as a Christian, you need to hope he gets impeached. You need to vote for impeachment. Perfect, because guess what? Hotly debated. We thought this is just absolutely perfect, right? Then the tragic murder of George Floyd, and Black Lives Matter became part of our vocabulary, and some people thinking this is great, and other Christians are saying, "But did you read their website?" "You don't care about race." We're thinking, okay. COVID comes. Mask wearing, John MacArthur, right here in our home state of California, makes the decision we're meeting, no social distancing, no masks. And by now, the book's been out, I don't know, for a couple of months. We could write new ones. So guess what? Conflict is going nowhere, and as Christians, we can absolutely love Jesus, but we just sort of kind of disagree about when Jesus says, "Seek first the kingdom of God," for many of us, we're like, oh, I know exactly what he's talking about. He's talking about this issue, and good ... I want to say this over and over, Chris, because you and I believe this. Really good Christians can disagree about the prioritization of certain things.

Chris Grace:    I think we can disagree on not only prioritization, but to me ... let's just go with the C.S. Lewis quote, because you're such a fan. He says at one point, "The goal is to have humans running around during a flood with fire extinguishers." During a flood, you need to be running around. That's his goal as a demon, so of course you have this master demon that C.S. Lewis writes about, and he's teaching the underling about how do you help make humans stay in conflict or stay unaware of things? Well, you throw in issues that will have them confused and fighting each other. So Tim, there is no way we're going to run out of conflicts. I mean, take any writer at any time who is anywhere aware and sensitive to his surroundings, and he's going to talk about the conflicts, whether in church, whether in culture, whether in families, whether in relationships.

Tim Muehlhoff:    And this isn't a modern problem spurred on by social media, right? Go to Romans chapter 14. Paul is trying to bring together Jewish converts and Gentile converts in Rome, and it's not going well. The Jewish converts are saying, "Of course days and diets are important. Are you kidding me? We're not just throwing out the whole of our Jewish background." And the Gentiles are saying, "Yeah, not so much. Who cares? I could care about days and diets," right? So Paul's stepping in and he's saying, okay, hang on. Hold on. I'm going to create a third category, and the third category's going to be disputable matters which, to Paul, means good Christians can disagree on these issues. I'm not saying everybody needs to be days and diets or everybody needs to have [inaudible] free, do whatever. He's saying there are disputable matters. You will give account before the Lord for it, but there are going to be good Christians who are just going to disagree. Now he says to the church at Ephesus, "But at all costs, I want you to protect unity."

Chris Grace:    So that must be your theme, this notion of protecting unity in Winsome Conviction, and this idea then, Tim, is there is no dispute that we are going to disagree. Even in our friendship, there are things that you will prioritize that I won't, and that's fine. I mean, we expect that's just the way it is. Now, how do we protect unity when that conviction that I hold is so deep? Is it humility? Give us a word. There's got to be a word, Tim. You guys wrote this book. I know the word unity is important. I believe in unity, I want that, but Tim, this is critical to me. This is between me and God. This is a conviction that all filthy rags of our acts are nothing but filthy rags, or whatever it might be. Wearing the mask is to protect the people around me and to save many lives that can be hurt, versus this is just a muzzle that people are making me wear. Okay, whatever your conviction, Tim, how ... When you guys wrote this book, you had something in mind. You were protecting the unity of the church, you were helping people think through what do I do when we differ, and that's where the word winsome comes in.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Yeah, Chris, everybody knows who's in it. This is not easy. Emotions run high. I feel like you should be supporting me in this, and I cannot believe we're disagreeing over this, but it's so obvious to me this is what we should be doing, this should be the priority. So I love the word humility. We talk about intellectual humility, which means ... and again, Chris, this is the great benefit and the frustrating thing of being at a university with a bunch of really smart PhDs, right? There are issues I feel really strongly about, but there are really, really smart people who disagree with me on the issue, or how to order the issue, things like that. So intellectual humility is, ah, you know, I feel really strongly about this. I could be wrong. Or at least, I can't make it everything. If I was running Biola University, it would all be about this, or I would choose to highlight this over this. 

    But when you open yourself up to other perspectives, and boy, that's a key part of the book, Chris. You know groupthink. My goodness, that's a huge psychological concept which means ... Let's say I feel incredibly strongly about one issue. For me, social justice is huge. Helping the poor, the marginalized, that is paramount to what I think Jesus says, "Seek first the kingdom of God." So it feels really good to hang out with another group of people that are all like, "Oh yeah, social justice, man. That is it. How can you read the gospels or the Old Testament and not get social justice?" 

    It feels great to be around a bunch of people that say, "Yeah, this is it, this is it." There's nothing wrong with that, but when it starts to creep in, this kind of language, "And how in the world could anybody disagree with that? You're not reading your Bible if you don't get the importance of social justice. How in the world could you interpret this passage differently?" and you never open the group for counter arguments or people who do read that passage differently. That's groupthink. We call it an echo chamber. 

Chris Grace:    What's wrong with groupthink, I mean social psychologists, we've been studying this for 100 years. It's all part of our beginnings. But what happens, Tim, is not just this idea that you are so wrong. It's we begin to ... it doesn't start off with demonizing the other. It begins by thinking they are just not enlightened enough. They're not empathic enough. They're somehow less than what they should be doing in order to hold this. But pretty soon it becomes, "They are so backwards. They are so behind times. They are so insulated. They have absolutely nothing to offer because they're unwilling to look outside of their little bubble," and we begin to demonize that other group who doesn't believe that social justice is that important or that critical, at least as much as I hold this.

Tim Muehlhoff:    And it doesn't even need to be out and out demonizing, Chris. Absolutely that happens, without a doubt. Just turn on the news today and you see demonizing all over the place. But you get these little shots across the bow. I say to you, Chris, to be honest, I've really studied this issue. I have really. You just want to say, yeah, and I'm just riffing. I'm just making this up. Or hey, my view is based on the scriptures ... the scriptures are what's leading me. It's like, what am I supposed to say? I don't know. I'm kind of using the Encyclopedia Britannica. Do you know what I mean? Those little jabs happen all the time when it comes to really important issues, and it just starts to wear on you. 

    Now, imagine this is happening in a marriage. Imagine this is happening in a community or a church. Then you start to get these factions where people ... you mentioned earlier in the podcast. Now we don't talk about this issue with other people. We still talk about in our groups and we fortify our beliefs.

Chris Grace:    So Tim, would you guys ... I mean, it's an amazing book. You and Rick did such a great job. You started to bring up some of the solutions and some of the things you think about or you should have. I love the idea, by the way, of intellectual humility. One of our colleagues here, you talk about the awesomeness of being in a university. Pete Hill has made one of his studies intellectual humility. In fact, he's done grants, he's received grants on it, so I would recommend go look up intellectual humility. It's an actual discipline in psychology. One our great colleagues and friends, Pete Hill, has been studying it for a while now. But all that to say, Tim, especially when it comes to relationships, whether it's inside my family, because frankly, generational differences are huge, right? You have an older set of parents, maybe younger children or friends, all of a sudden these generational gaps take different sides on these issues. So what seems like a cultural issue when it really hurts is when I can no longer talk to my parents about this issue, or I can no longer talk to my children about that issue. So what do we do?

Tim Muehlhoff:    Yeah, and you get hit with, okay ... we've even made this shorthand. And we're getting to the age, Chris, this is so hard to say this, but it's like somebody says, "Yeah, okay boomer." 

Chris Grace:    Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Boom, dismissed in a heartbeat. And I say, "Well, what do you expect from a millennial," right? You start to speak in shorthand. So we do one chapter on, hey, how does a conflict take root? We take a look at some communication theorists who break it down to five steps, but it is very interesting to see. He calls it a breach. This breach starts to happen, it gains momentum. So one, it's really good to figure out in your family, marriage organization, church, hey, how do these things get traction? Then we talk about perception, which is huge, because your perception is your reality. It's like you're being disrespectful to me. I'm not, I'm engaging you. No, you're being ... So we have to learn about perception and do something called perception checking. Then we have a section on groupthink. 

    And then we have, because what's cool about Rick Langer, not only is he a sharp intellectual, he was a pastor for 20 years. So I love that he brings that into the book saying, hey, it's one thing to write a book about it. It's another thing to have to deal with it in real time with people. I dipped my big toe into being an interim teaching pastor at two different churches, and got just a little peak at the complexity of it. And again, protect unity at all costs, but we also have a chapter that says, but do you know what? That's not always possible, and there's going to be times you might have to leave. 

    Now, we're not talking marriage, okay? There's a difference between an organization, a university, a church and your marriage. I think these principles apply to both, but the byline is how to disagree without dividing the church, so we kind of lean more towards the group aspect. But I do think a lot of those principles really do apply to our marriage, where you find yourselves on opposite ends theologically, politically, that needs to be negotiated.

Chris Grace:    So Tim, how do you then protect a friendship, because when you talk about church, and your point is well taken. In families, you can't leave, usually, unless it's an abusive situation or something else, but you don't leave your family. You don't leave your spouse over a differently held conviction. You might want to check. The recent data shows that couples that used to not get together were those that were from different religions or those that were from different economic backgrounds. Now it's they don't get together if they're from a different political persuasion, right? It's such a deep divide, that you rarely find strong Democrats marrying strong Republicans. And if they do, they write books about it. They go on TV and talk about how I survived, and everybody's like, "This is fantasy."

    But Tim, you are now talking about, and especially in your book, what divides the church. These are friends. It's hard to walk out of the life of a friend, especially in smaller communities, right? Sometimes in larger cities, large states, you could go to the church down the street, and then okay, this doesn't work. I'll go somewhere else, and you can go 20 miles away and find a different church and still be okay. But for many people, to leave a church is like leaving a friend, because you are. So what do you recommend when you are holding these strong convictions and it's somebody you sit next to that you love?

Tim Muehlhoff:    Yeah. Again, this is the weakness of podcasts, of course, and that's why you need to go to the CMR website, because there's not a quick answer to this. That's why the CMR website, we talk about communication climates. We talk about conflict resolution. We talk about reflective listening. That's the big answer. I'd pick one part of the communication climate, and that is commitment. So I have a friend, Chris, we have been friends, we just figured this out, for over 40 years. We could not disagree more when it comes to politics and a certain branch of theology. We don't need to go into the difference, but we both feel it's incredibly important. I recently had a birthday. My sweet wife put together a book, and Chris was in the book, wrote a letter. He wrote a letter, and I just affirmed him and said, hey, you know, we have our differences, but I want you to know this is a 40 year friendship, man. This is one of the most precious friendships I have. So dude, we disagree on some things. We agree on a ton of things, and this friendship being one of them. 

    So Chris, I love the idea of re-establishing that commitment level of the friendship, of the marriage, of parenting, of the church, is hey, I know this is volatile because we just went through an election, I know this is volatile because this theological issue is so important to us, but let's step back and affirm all we believe in and all we care about. I think that's incredibly important that we step back and do that fairly regularly, because you can get myopic, right? You call it tunnel vision. You can get myopic and just focus on that pebble in the shoe, and pretty soon you hate the whole shoe. I think it's really good to step back and say, dude, I really do love you. I don't argue with people I don't respect, right, because I didn't care about your opinion. I don't care. I really do care about your opinion. You really do make me think. I do disagree, but man, I'm richer for the fact that you're in my life. I think that's nice to do fairly regularly.

Chris Grace:    Yeah, and I just want to point out you said the pretty shoe, it's about the shoe, and I think you meant pretty soon. See Tim, this is the way our friendship survives, is your dictation sometimes just gets thrown off. Tim, when you think of Paul's use of the word quarreling ... I don't know. It really is strongly held convictions. Why else would it make Paul's list? He puts things on there, as you mentioned, especially the Jews and the Gentiles. I think if he was here today, he would say, "Church, stop it. There are things you are doing and quarrels you are having that you shouldn't be having." I love the way you guys set up your book. You guys did some great things to prepare readers for what they're about to get and the way they do this. You talk about foundations first, Biblical foundations that you hold. What are they? What's the spectrum? Then you talked about how you communicate this. Just because we're divided in our thoughts, do we have to be divisive in our relationships? I love that one and how unity is threatened. Then at the end, you guys say, let's put it all together. What are the ways we can be a healing in the body of Christ, and where can we have, and some guidelines for hard conversations. 

Tim Muehlhoff:    We really tried to make it practical, Chris. I love the fact that we do a deep dive into Paul, Romans 14. I love the fact that we are bringing together the best of comm theory, the best of the scriptures. Rick's focus, of course, is philosophy. But you got me thinking about something real quick. Wouldn't it be fascinating if we had the apostle Paul on? By the way, we'd be trending, man.

Chris Grace:    That'd be awesome.

Tim Muehlhoff:    We'd be trending.

Chris Grace:    We could get somebody who is a great actor. That could happen.

Tim Muehlhoff:    We've got to get the CMR on this. We should get this. So if Paul were here, we don't have to imagine what he would say, we know exactly what he would say, right? And so the church at Ephesus, he says this in chapter four. I love this. "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God in whom you are sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, outcry and slander, along with envy and malice." And then he says, "But I want you to put on these things. I want you to be kind and tenderhearted." Chris, it's so easy that we're not tenderhearted towards each other anymore. We're just gearing up for battle. And I love this, "Forgiving each other just as God forgave you." Holy cow. Now listen, we can have disagreements, but at the end of the day, Paul's giving me a pretty interesting checklist. You can't let this bleed into rage and anger. He uses clamor in another translation, which means you slandered this person with so many people, now a group thinks ill of this person. That's what he calls clamor. So we have a pretty good checklist from the apostle Paul as a pretty good place to start.

Chris Grace:    It's an amazing checklist, Ephesians four, and the word put off is just this powerful verb that we say ... what does it mean to put off? I would suggest that if you are struggling in this area, if your church is, that you better sit down for a very long time between you and the Lord and ask him to bring to mind this passage in Ephesians that says, what does Paul say? He says put off and put on. Are you doing this very well? And I would think if your anger, if your clamor, if there's divisiveness, if there's what we would today say you're throwing shade, your emotions are getting out of whack every time you just see that person or think their name. Then you probably have not done a very good job of putting into practice what does put off mean. Putting off means you get out of your life anything that is of that list, and you put on these things. 

    There's a psychologist that I won't get into it, but he was studying for even insects, the verb implies they would get rid of all of the things, for example, especially in colonies in which there's a long, strong social community. And in social communities, this is extremely important. For ants, even in particular, they have to put off all of the bad things, all of the trash, all of the dead and rotting things, and they take it outside and they put it into a trash pile. And they put it out there. 

    It's so strong, Tim, that eventually this amazing psychologist, he took these dead ants that they would put out into the pile and he would take that smell and he would brush it on a live ant. And this live ant would come crawling back into the colony, and the live ants would smell this ant that had the rotten smell and say, ooh, you're dead, and carry him out and throw him out. And if they smelled like a dead ant, they would throw him out. I'm going to suggest that that's an amazing study. By the way, they would take this live ant and keep throwing him out because he smelled like a dead ant, over and over and over again until that smell wore off. What if, in our community, we put off those and ourselves until that smell went away, that smell of being angry and divisive and clamoring. And boy, the only way, Tim, you can that, I have found in my own life, is to have time alone with me and God and to listen to him before I'm able to get out of that.

Tim Muehlhoff:    I can't believe you took my dead ant illustration. I had that thing all queued up, and I cannot believe you beat me to that.

Chris Grace:    Who was the guy that did this?

Tim Muehlhoff:    Antman, Marvel Comics. 

Chris Grace:    That's funny.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Hey, let me give you a quick resource if this is of interest to you. Go to

Chris Grace:    [crosstalk,]

Tim Muehlhoff:    And we've got some interviews, we've got some articles. You're going to see some carryover with our website, because this is communication, Chris. So we're kind of applying it to the crazy issues, the volatile issues, right, which is important, of course, but the very skills you get from the CMR, from this podcast, man, that's got to be in the tool box, because then you can apply that to the heart issues. But the great thing about the home, the great thing about parenting, the great thing about the church, as Luther said, man, the home is where you build character. So it's great to practice on the smaller things, because then you'll have that in your tool box when you get to a volatile election, you get to race issues. Now we take that same tool box. It's not a magic tool box, like let me get to the super duper tool box. It's really not that.

Chris Grace:    No. What it is, Tim, is what you guys have given great ways of putting on kindness, putting on these things that are for us, what Paul, from the very beginning said. You're going to quarrel, it's going to happen, and these churches he went to ... In fact, it was quarreling that led to so many problems, and God used it in some amazing ways in Paul's life, right, in ministries. It kept him from going places that actually opened up the door to other parts of the world to the gospel. But Tim, I think your book, you and Rick have hit on something pretty powerful, and that is getting people together in this process. I love the guidelines that you give in there. Thanks for that resource, winsome conviction, is it org or dot com?

Tim Muehlhoff:

Chris Grace:    Dot com. They need to go there and look at it. It's such a great place to start. Like you said, Tim, to start with these in our friendships, because ultimately at the end of the day, they come down to our relationships that are most important to us, aren't they?

Tim Muehlhoff:    Yeah.

Chris Grace:    Well, thanks for that. By the way, the social biologist/psychologist is E.O. Wilson on ants.

Tim Muehlhoff:    I knew it.

Chris Grace:    Seriously, he made such important analogies for us. It really does, about community and living together in community, like churches. Hey, great book, and what a wonderful addition to the canon out there of books that reach a level of how do we deal with issues today that divide us? It's that.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Blessed are the peace makers. I mean, we've got to take that seriously.

Chris Grace:    Blessed are the peace makers. I love that. Tim.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Chris.

Chris Grace:    It's always fun.

Mandy:    Thanks for listening to the Art of Relationships. This podcast is only made possible through generous donations from listeners just like you. If you like it and want to help keep the podcast going, visit our website at and make a donation today.