I scanned my Facebook newsfeed and nearly came to despair over our ability to find a way forward. Cheap verbal shots abound. Complex issues are reduced to sound bites. Slogans substitute for substantial conversations. People are judged, condemned, and written off – then labeled. “Racist.” “Stupid.” “Bigot.” “Fool.”
Real questions that might lead to discovery go unasked because certain things must never be spoken. We dare not wonder aloud about the polar extremes in this national crisis without risking offending the other ‘side.’ One word can make another decide we are no longer worthy of their friendship without the benefit of even one conversation. It is a tragic development. The danger makes many, the majority I think, join a safe silence.
God, the Spirit, reminds us of this. “Live wisely among those who are not Christians, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone.” (Colossians 4:5-6, NLT) ‘Let your conversation be gracious.’ What a thought. Because of Christ Jesus, our words and actions are to flow out of a place of kindness and gentleness; being full of good will. When that persons says something with which we disagree, instead of shutting the conversation down with a look of derision, with a quick word of judgment, we can gently inquire further, looking for clarification, trying to understand how they came to that way of thinking. But, will we?
A good listener can draw a toxic poison in the soul to the surface is she will probes gently with leading questions, listening without racing to judgment. Listening does not mean that we affirm the truthfulness of every word spoken. God forbid! Nor, can we abandon the core of convictions with that dishonest dismissal that says, “Well, you have your truth and I have mine.” Such ‘tolerance’ does not bring real understanding.
Then, too, we commit ourselves to the process in this exchange, knowing how unlikely it is that a single conversation will change long-standing assumptions. A loving discussion, however, that allows for mistakes, that lets offensive ideas make their way into the open, that seeks to know the person as well as his ideas, can create moments of revelation.
Christian, are you humble enough to listen and learn?
Are you willing to set aside the need to be right long enough to keep engaged with that person who really needs to talk?
Will you patiently let another vent while pursuing a conversation past the point of unpleasantness to real discovery?
Words do matter. Lies must be exposed. To suggest otherwise is to lack courage. We do not bring about righteousness by silencing others. We humbly engage, reveal, listen, learn, and grow together for the sake of love and humanity. This is the heart of our Christian commitment. Jesus says we are people of the truth but the signature mark of those who are ‘in Christ,’ is love – for God, for others – even those with whom we differ.
Here is a word from the Word. It is lengthy but oh so full of correction for this time in which we live. Let’s commit to living lovingly in the Truth, for God’s sake.
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:29-32, NLT)
Now, what were you were saying?
When darkness tries to roll over my bones
When sorrow comes to steal the joy I own
When brokenness and pain is all I know
I won’t be shaken I won’t be shaken
My fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love (repeat)
Shame no longer has a place to hide
I am not a captive to the lies
I’m not afraid to leave my past behind
I won’t be shaken I won’t be shaken
There’s power that can break off every chain
There’s power that can empty out a grave
There’s resurrection power that can save
There’s power in Your name power in Your name
Standing in Your love
Ethan Hulse | Josh Baldwin | Mark Harris | Rita Springer
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