The phrase means different things to different people. By and large, it has been the way of the West of centuries. Put a different way, most areas of disagreement do not constitute separation.
We deal with this in the church all the time, where Albert Mohler divides theological arguments into three tiers. First tier issues being orthodoxy and worth saying “you are not a Christian” over. These are matters of heresy. Second tier issues are matters that divide denominations, such as paedobaptism. We agree that we are both Christians, but we might not be able to go to the same church together. Third tier are the, what I call, long-beard issues. These are topics that are fun to discuss and debate, but have no affect on our salvation.
I say this to say that we need to think about what hills are worth dying on and realize that the majority of hills are not worth such acts.
This leads us back to the phrase: agree to disagree. When we agree to disagree on a specific topic, sometimes that looks like leaving the topic lay, knowing there is disagreement and being okay with it. There are other topics to discuss, after all. Other times we respectfully continue conversation around the topic because of a mutual desire to understand people we disagree with.
But the truth of the matter is that the existence of agreeing to disagree means that there are topics we cannot agree to disagree on. See first tier topics. For a Christian, this doesn’t mean that you hate— or show any less love for— the person you disagree with, it just means the disagreement is on a topic important enough to cut certain ties— in the context of these disagreements, the tie is the church, this individual is not allowed to lead or participate in certain ways in one’s church and could see church discipline, for instance. For instance, sometimes a disagreement can be on a topic important enough to prevent an individual from being around your children.
These are healthy things to do, but one has to weigh the importance of topics. As a Christian, we have to weigh these things against the Bible and our duties therein.
As a Christian, we are to go and spread the Gospel. To do that, you will be encountering people that disagree with you on the topics that are of most importance to you as a Christian every single day. If I cut ties with everyone that believed that children with Down Syndrome should be rooted out in the womb and murdered, I would be cutting ties with a lot of people that need Jesus. This ends in me being Amish, sequestered to a hundred acres in Arkansas with no Internet, no phone, and no contact with the outside world. Just me, my woodshop, and lots of laughing kids. Actually, that sounds great. But my Lord commands that I engage with the world.
But that is the Christian worldview. Lovingly living alongside men and women that disagree with us is part of the plan. It’s how we spread the Gospel. The worldview that is spreading through the West like wildfire is almost Darwinian: destroy those that you disagree with. Why would you continue to love someone that disagrees with you? You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. And the result is that the bar for what is worth destroying a relationship, or possible relationship, is much lower for many. What used to clearly fall into “you are Jewish and I am Christian, but we can still be friends,” now lands in “you are Christian and I am trans, so we cannot be friends and I’ll call your manager on Monday to demand that they fire you.”
This is a worldview difference that is stark as we enter into an era of post-Christian society. Where a couple decades ago the atheists followed Christian principles, the new atheists most certainly do not. For many of them, not only are they not okay with agreeing to disagree on their topics, they will chase you down and harass you until you agree. That will come in the way of threats of violence against you, threats against your job, threats to destroy your reputation, threats to go after your children, and worse.
Some of those reading this have seen this form of disagreement either personally or close friends. Others think I am being sensational and hyperbolic. I assure you I am not. All those types of threats I mentioned in the last paragraph I have experienced personally in the last year.
Please Christian, be aware that persecution is coming in the States. If your job hasn’t been threatened yet, it will be sooner or later. You will get a call from HR and be told to defend yourself against baseless claims. If your children haven’t been used as collateral to get your obedience yet, they will be sooner or later. Hold to your faith and show grace in these situations. Look to the martyrs of old. Don’t waiver in your faith or your testimony.
Understand, Christian, that we are dealing with worldview differences so often now that it is becoming normal. Try to be peaceable in all things and know that many in our modern world have no intent on doing anything of the such. You are now the counterculture.