In what has been dubbed a “post-Christian” culture, there is a shift happening. If I am honest, it has needed to happen in the church for a long time. I would characterize much of the religious vs. secular debate as spiritual bullying — at least from the religious side.
Don’t get me wrong. Not all of it has been that. A large percentage of what I would deem as bullying has been done with the best of intentions. But an academic arrogance seems to permeate both sides of the argument, and it isn’t helping.
Here are five ways we can have a conversation about truth in our culture that the other side is willing to listen to:
- Fight to understand the other side. I know this seems like a simple truth, but it is painfully absent in much of the conversation going on today. We work hard to be heard and to prove ourselves right, but not to understand. Valuing people enough to listen to them and understand them, whether I agree with them or not, sounds a lot more like Jesus than what I see going on today.
- Celebrate the common ground. No one is all right or all wrong — all good or all bad. Everyone has a piece of truth and sound thinking in what they are saying. That doesn’t make the conclusion valid, but it does mean they have a brain and have put considerable effort into understanding why they believe the way they do. Validate the good points.
- Keep people in the conversation. It is Jesus who changes hearts, not my convincing academic arguments. We must keep the conversation open and honest and kind long enough for Jesus to do whatever He is going to do for both of us. I may find this posture changes me into the image of Jesus more than the other person. If that is all it does, then it is still worth it.
- Relationship is more important than being right. Oh, if we could just get this one right — it would change so much. Jesus is pretty clear about how we are supposed to treat enemies (which they aren’t, but if this is the case with enemies, how much more should we treat them well). Jesus loves the person on the other side of the argument as much as He loves me. So should I.
- Be sure you know who your allies are. Don’t shoot your allies! Many people in the pursuit of truth are willing to kill even those who agree with them. We make truth the point, while Jesus does not. And before you throw out “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” make sure you have a good historical understanding of why Jesus said that. Truth is NOT the point. We would never be able to get to the end of truth anyway. Because our mind is finite and God is infinite, there is going to be someplace where our mind cannot comprehend all of truth. Or our understanding of truth may be inadequate or even wrong.
In Micah 6:8 the prophet challenges us to walk humbly with our God. My conviction is that this means we hold our understanding of who God is and what He wants with an open hand. He may want to reveal something about Himself I would otherwise miss if I hold to my already established truth too tightly.
May you engage the truth conversation well.