The last time Michael met the Prince, they were fighting over Persia.

Things have changed. That was millennia ago, in Daniel 10:13. But exactly a week ago, on Jan 20, 2017, Michael (Brown) sat down with (Joseph) Prince for two and a half hours in a Singapore hotel lobby in a surprising conversation.

Surprising not for the route the dialogue went. You’d expect two experienced, learned, influential Christian leaders to be able to hold their own in a theological debate. Details on their discussion can be found in a Jan 26 article on Brown’s blog (tl;dr – turns out they agree on almost everything except whether our future sins are already forgiven the minute we are saved).

What was surprising was that they met at all. Here was Pastor Joseph Prince of the New Creation Church – Singapore’s largest, and still growing – with his well-known teachings on grace, sat across the sofa from Michael Brown, whose stance on what he calls “hyper-grace” he put onto paper in the book Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message.

The book was so apparently diametrically opposed to Prince’s teachings that Brown didn’t even bother to reach out to the Singaporean pastor for comment.

“I did not reach out to Pastor Prince, wrongly assuming he would not be interested in dialoguing with me based on my experience with some previous leaders who refused to interact,” Brown, 61, wrote in a Jan 26 article on his blog, which was also reproduced on Charisma.

“I apologised to him for my failure to do so, and he graciously received that apology.”

That’s grace!

Graciously apologising, graciously accepting. If all of Christendom was as mature about drawing closer despite differences, enduring despite disagreements, we really would be closer to that most wonderful of Biblical ideas: One church that is one body (Romans 12:5), in one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13), one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

As the original Michael vs Prince battle in Daniel 10 proved, there are enough battles out there going on without the Church having to fight internal fires. Yes, we must correct, instruct and rebuke where needed (Proverbs 9:8-9). Yes, we must point out fallacy and false teaching where it is clearly in evidence (1 John 4:1-3). Yes, we must protect other believers, and non-believers, from the error of believing untruths (Ephesians 5:11).

But while these are things that we are called to do, zealously and jealously discerning and guarding the truth of Scripture, we cannot do so at the expense of the other commands. And chief among these is the need to be united in love. Jesus loves the Church (Ephesians 5:25), and so should we – warts and all.

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14)

Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)

That together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:6)

Truth and love go hand in hand. You will know those who walk in truth by the fact that they act in love. Fundamentally, the posture should never be about who is right, or who is wrong, but about journeying together towards Jesus – the only one who is now and forever Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11).

It was just one conversation, over two and a half hours, on a random Friday in January. Coffee was drunk, forgiveness sought and granted, theology was clarified. And hope was rekindled.

There is hope for the church. These two men have modelled how to deal with differences; how to reach for the truth in love. It’s an example well worth following.

“And where I have a blind spot or a misunderstanding of God’s Word, may the Lord give me grace to see it, and where my brother has a blind spot or a misunderstanding of God’s Word, may the Lord give him grace to see it,” wrote Brown in his blogpost.

We all could use more of such grace.