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Election Central

The new nature of conflict in the Republican debates

Republican presidential candidates, from left, Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and Ben Carson leave the stage following the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas (Credit: AP Photo/John Locher)The final Republican debate of 2015 took place Tuesday night in Las Vegas. While previous debates have touched on a number of subjects, CNN kept the focus primarily on issues of foreign policy and national security. In many ways, by limiting the number of topics addressed, more was actually said by the candidates. They were able to go into greater depth on their policies and, in many cases, offer real answers instead of theoretical platitudes. While the quality and feasibility of those answers can and will be debated heavily over the coming weeks, the chance to gain a measure of insight into what each candidate's presidency might look like was a refreshing shift from the personal attacks and incendiary questions that had largely defined many of the previous debates.

That said, the night was not without a few moments of conflict between the potential nominees. While Donald Trump was typically at the heart of such attacks in the first few debates, it was Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz that seemed to have the most heated exchanges throughout the night. Yet, whether it was on issues of immigration, foreign policy, or a number of other areas where the two candidates disagree, it was interesting to see the way in which their replies most often came in the form of explaining their own policies rather than attacking those of their rivals. And that was true for most of the other candidates as well.

Such conflicts are largely unavoidable when people believe strongly in opposing views. But, so long as the disagreements can be handled in a respectful manner, those differences are a good thing. Such debate often serves as a refining fire to help clarify points of potential weakness in one's views and to see the potential merits in the arguments of others. That is true of politicians but it is true of Christians as well.

Too often it seems like Christians are afraid to disagree with one another openly. That happens mostly because people mistake God's call for unity with a call to uniformity. When Jesus prayed that we would be one so that the world would come to understand God's love, he did so knowing that conflict would inevitably rise among the body of believers (John 17:23).

Our call is not to avoid such conflict but rather to address it in a manner that glorifies God. If we can learn to consistently do that, it will demonstrate to a watching world that our Lord is larger than our differences; that our love for one another in Christ is more important than surrounding ourselves with people that think the same way we do.

The body of Christ is diverse and that diversity is one of our greatest strengths. However, if we allow disagreements to fester from fear of conflict, that diversity can also become our greatest weakness. So the next time you find yourself thinking differently from your brother or sister in Christ, do not be afraid to voice your disagreement so long as you can do so first and foremost from a place of love, mercy, and humility. Jesus sought unity, not uniformity. Let's do the same.

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