This post was inspired by a recent sermon I preached on the same topic. It can be found in it’s entirety by clicking here.
Don’t you hate it when people want you to take their “side”? They argue just for the sake of arguing.
I am sure there was a time in the not-so-distant past when the majority of people actually respected each other’s opinions and feelings, but today people are much more concerned with us knowing their opinion and making their opinion ours. You know what I’m saying right? You’ve probably been baited into one of these conversations (more like one way transmissions) lately.
“It’s the Angels. THE ANGELS! Hamilton, Pujols, and Trout! Amazing offense, phenomenal defense. Don’t you know anything about baseball? You’re team is terrible. The Angels are the best!”
“What? How can you say that about our president. He is doing everything he can to improve our country. He has done his best to clean up all the old messes and move us in the right direction. You’re ignorant if you don’t feel the same way!”
Has someone made one of those statements to you? Maybe it wasn’t about politics or sports, but there are an unlimited number of other things people try to “push” on us. I can’t tell you the last time I had a conversation with someone that didn’t include them trying to sell me on their opinion or idea. I mean how dare they try to tell me I am wrong and they are right. Why can’t they understand that I have a brain? I have a heart, an opinion, and a point of view too!
Then it hit me! I too was that person. I began to realize that every time I got into a conversation with someone, I was trying to share force my beliefs with on them. For me, the topics have ranged from business success strategies to politics to Christianity. Too often I would take these “conversations” to a whole new level. I would get my sword and my shield out to prepare for the fight I was willing to start…..and win.
It wasn’t long before I began to see what I was doing to others. I was doing the very thing that they were hurting me with. I made them feel like their opinion didn’t matter. I made them feel stupid for thinking their way was even remotely possible. So what would it take to change the way I engaged others with my opinions and theirs? Simply, instead of trying to fight with them I decided it was time to join them. Not to take their side and compromise my opinions or beliefs for theirs, but to come to their side with an open mind and attempt to learn the who, what, and why of their point of view.
This type of approach is especially important when it comes to the topic of Christianity. It is hard for me to admit this as a pastor, but most Christians do a terrible job of listening to what non-believers (people that are not Christians) have to say. They don’t seem to care about the thoughts and opinions of those outside their circles and it is such a shame for a multitude of reasons:
Typically more of the goings-on in a city happen outside the church circle than inside it.
There is much wisdom to be learned about the local church from people that don’t participate in the church circle.
When trying to engage the culture outside the church, it is important to know what the culture is all about.
Just because God knows everything doesn’t mean Christians do!
As a Christian, I think it’s time we go right to the word of God and see how God calls us to engage in conversation with people of other opinions and beliefs. In Acts 17:16-32, the Apostle Paul steps into a cultural context with which he doesn’t have much favor, and instead of putting up a fight with them he talks their talk. Paul spent time in the city of Athens sharing his heart for Jesus while listening to what they were saying. He apparently studied what was of importance to them (Acts 17:28) and he showed respect for them (Acts 17:22). Paul didn’t walk into Athens with guns ablazing but instead took his time to share in an effective manner. Surely he wanted to do his best to get his message across clearly and not jeopardize his opportunity by upsetting his audience.
What about us? How can we take a different approach to the same old fights?
When people are hanging out in the local bars until all hours of the night drinking and having a good time, don’t immediately attack their actions by labeling them horrible sinners. Maybe in fact they are there because that is where they have found a strong community of friends who don’t instantly judge the book by it’s cover.
Or the next time a conversation comes up on the topic of same-sex marriage, listen intently to why the defending party believes their side is the right side. Maybe it is due to the fact that they don’t believe in God at all. In that instance, fighting with them about God’s definition of marriage is pointless.
It’s not to say that we should never fight for what we believe is right. But each of us must do a better job of learning more about the other side of every opinion and belief. You never know when stepping to the “other” side wins that person right back to your “side”.