Íñigo López de Loyola—better known to us as Ignatius of Loyola*—passed from this life on July 31, 1556. He was a Spanish priest and a leader in the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation. Roman Catholics have celebrated July 31 as his feast day since the seventeenth century.
As a Protestant, I may not celebrate the feast day of the founder of the Jesuit order, and I do not know whether or not he trusted wholly in the unearned merit of Jesus Christ to be made right with God. I have, however, found these words from his Spiritual Exercises to be helpful as a scholar and as a leader. Here’s what Ignatius had to say about responding to someone with whom you disagree:
Let it be presupposed that every good Christian is to be more ready to save his neighbor’s proposition than to condemn it.
If he cannot save it, let him inquire how his neighbor means it.
If his neighbor means it badly, let him correct it with charity.
If that is not enough, let him seek every suitable means to bring his neighbor to mean it well and thus to save himself.
Here is how I would paraphrase what Ignatius had to say:
When a fellow Christian says something, look for the truth in what was said before looking for the errors.
If you can’t find truth in what was said, talk to your fellow Christian to understand how he or she meant it, assuming that you misunderstood what was meant.
If the statement was indeed meant in a way that’s false, correct your fellow Christian privately with gentleness and grace.
If that doesn’t work, try every possible means to help your fellow Christian to see the truth and to mean what he or she said in a way that’s true instead of false.
Discuss in the Comments:
Compare these recommendations from Ignatius of Loyola with the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:15-35. Suppose that every Christian scholar followed these steps when critiquing another scholar’s book. Or what about considering these steps before writing a blog post suggesting that someone’s views might not be orthodox? What if church leaders took this advice from Ignatius when responding to questions or criticisms from members? What would change about the ways that we say what we say?
* This change in the name by which he is best known was almost certainly for the best, since I would otherwise be constantly tempted to say when teaching about Ignatius of Loyola, “Hello, my name is Íñigo Loyola. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”