I want to speak into a lot of the hurt that I see going on out there in Christian conversation because I believe there is a better way. It must start with a humble recognition of our own fraility and imperfection and then move toward an attempt to truly understand another person. So here goes…
I am not interested in back biting, point scoring, mud slinging, base frenzying diatribe. I really want to have a discussion. I am not interested in hurting you, downing you, or judging you. I am interested in what you have to say. Yes, I really want a discussion. Let’s talk.
I want to understand where you are coming from. That means I don’t try to guess where you are coming from. I won’t try to read your mind, make things up or say you said things you didn’t say. No. I want to have a respectful conversation where two people are really trying to understand each other. Is that too much to ask? That means I am devoted to listen. I am dedicated to asking questions when I don’t understand something you said or wrote and seek clarity through you explaining your own thoughts and beliefs rather than me telling you what they are as if I know your heart and mind better than you do. I am more interested in understanding you than hearing “amen” from my friends. I am more interested in what you have to say than I am making friends or enemies on this side or that. I am tired of discussing theological topics in worldly ways and with worldly attitudes…yes, I have done that. Repeatedly. I repent of it and promise to do my best to not do that to you either. Let’s talk.
Why do I want this? I don’t want it because I have to be right. I don’t want this to prove my superiority. No. I rebuke those temptations and cast them far away and so should you. I want this because I love you. We listen to those we love. We tear down, destroy and disparage those who hate. There is no room for such things among the children of God…among spiritual siblings. Let’s talk.
Yes, I really want a discussion because I really do care about you…you are precious. You are special to God why wouldn’t you be special to me?
You know what else I care about? I care about the truth. I believe in truth. I believe God’s word is truth…now just because we disagree doesn’t mean you are automatically honest and I am automatically dishonest or the other way around either. Just because we disagree doesn’t mean that you care about scripture and I don’t or the other way around either. The truth is I don’t know your motivation and you don’t know mine so let’s not pretend like we do. The only way we are ever going to engage in a meaningful conversation is if we start with a love for each other. That means we will pray for each other. I am committed to praying for anyone I have a theological discussion with. I am committed to loving them even if they hurt me. I am committed to apologizing to them when I can tell I have hurt them or I have said something I shouldn’t have. Sorry is rare in these discussions and that is a shameful reflection on the state of Christianity. I am committed to you because God is committed to you and because I love you. That also means we must be devoted to actually understanding each other and that takes time and intentional listening…not listening to score a point, build our defense, or find a way to win but truly, respectfully listening to understand another person. Love requires it.
PS – The only reason I know this in any way, shape or form is because I have lived it out on both sides and I know the damage we do when we don’t love and respect each other. I do not intend this to be a reflection on anyone in particular except for myself in those things that I have confessed above. Thank you for being patient with me.