Are you a billboard, or an ear?

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I don’t usually write commentary, but I think between the media storm this week and Christmas gatherings upon us, this needs to be said.

To my brothers and sisters who follow Jesus: please bear this in mind as you gather with family and friends this week. Before you engage in an emotionally charged discussion of politics or morals, ask yourself:

1. Am I placing more emphasis on being right, or on building a trusting relationship, where my thoughts and feelings are welcomed, not feared or resented?

2. Is my true goal here to faithfully represent the truth AND grace of God — or is my true goal to show how excellent my arguments are and leave my hearers speechless?

3. Can I do this whole conversation with a gentle/humble tone of voice, facial expression, and body language?

If your answers give you pause, you might want to just excuse yourself from the conversation. That’s right: just walk away without expressing your opinion! If you can’t do that, this might be a clue that it is your pride — not God’s reputation — that’s at stake. God can defend himself, thank you very much. If you find that you’re just in it to win it, you really just need to walk away. (Preaching to myself here, too.)

A comment from an atheist on blog I read today said,

I want to know and see that the messenger lives in the good of his message. . . better yet when the messenger is the message. People who are the real deal speak better and deeper than billboards and bumper stickers. I can walk with people who are genuine, and even if we don’t agree, we come away better.

Winn Collier says:

What if, before we heralded our answers to every moral quandary, we asked questions about a person’s story, about what they hope for, what they are afraid of and what they most desire? Dallas Willard… when asked how a Christian should converse with others on dicey ethical issues, said, “I wouldn’t start with the rightness or wrongness. First, I’d be curious.” Would the world view the church differently if we owned the reputation as people who were authentically curious, who hoped to turn every stranger into a friend?

So don’t just be a billboard; don’t just be one-way communication; engage in an exchange. And if you are going to engage, before moving to your stance on a matter, ask your hearers some gentle, curious, questions; in a concerned way, not defensively — or worse — offensively. Questions such as, “What do you think?” “How did you come to believe this?” “Why does this matter to you, or why are you so passionate about it?”

And before you respond, check the above list again.

Apply. Rinse. Repeat.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18

For the blog post whose comment was quoted above, see this post (if you can stomach the billboard it refers to): http://brandonchase.net/2013/12/16/to-all-of-our-atheist-friends/

For the full article by Winn Collier: http://conversationsjournal.com/2012/03/a-curious-jesus/

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Image: MyDigitalSLR via photopin cc

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