The dreaded debate.
Someone asks you a hot topic question. You are faced with two possible outcomes: they celebrate you for agreeing with them or attack your opposing opinion. It always seems to come down to a matter of their side and the wrong side.
Differences are simply unavoidable when we spend time with others. Sadly, we often run away from these differences and these conversations. However, differences are not supposed to be a curse — they are a reflection of how God has uniquely created us in his image (Genesis 1:27).
According to 1 Peter 4:10-11, God has blessed each one of us with unique spiritual gifts according to his plan. However, we tend to ignore the fact that each person also comes with their own unique and insightful views.
I, as a white female from the Midwest, simply do not have the same perspective as a male student of color from the south or a child immigrant to the United States — but that does not mean anyone has a right or wrong perspective. Together, each person lends their experiences and expertise to create a fuller image of a situation.
When we neglect God’s diversity present in us, we pick and choose a personality of Christ that feels comfortable.
Jill Boyd, World Orphans representative, spoke about this need for diverse perspectives in chapel on Oct. 16.
“We have taken the personality of Jesus that we really like . . . none of (the focuses are) wrong, but (they’re) also not complete,” Boyd said. “If these people just talk, think of what could happen in the world.”
It is too easy to focus on only one aspect of God’s direction. Because of this, it is vital to engage civilly with other perspectives and views. Listening to understand, not to be right, is the very foundation of empathy and compassion — it is at the forefront of Christ’s mission.
Because of 1 Corinthians 12:7, we know that at the core of every Christian is the manifestation of the spirit for the glory of God. Until God calls down from the heavens to settle the score on the electoral college or taxes, no one should be claiming other views are evil or not rooted in faith. It is not our dominion to judge someone’s walk with God (Matthew 7:1–5), let alone villainize and subjugate someone because they have a different opinion.
Yes, the Bible is black and white on certain issues. Yes, there are deeply personal issues. Yes, there is a deep hurt present in our current political atmosphere.
To be fair, this posture of discussion is hard and uncommon. However, we cannot keep having screaming matches.
“The need of the hour is political reconciliation,” said Ed Meadors, professor of biblical studies. “The counsel I give in class is to enter conversations such as this with questions, a listening ear, and prioritization of the relationship . . . It's instructive to note how often Jesus asked questions.”
Meadors said the important points to address in disagreement are what we believe, why we believe what we do, where we agree, where we disagree, why we disagree, agreeing to disagree and how to maintain civility and peace. He cited these from “I Beg to Differ: Navigating Difficult Conversations with Truth and Love” by Tim Muehlhoff, with a series of questions to ask in addressing disagreement.
Truly, real change does not come from the conquest of one viewpoint. Change is a direct result of coming together in uncomfortable disagreement, but still working together.
When we talk and work together about hard issues in humility, we create a culture of change and become the Christians this world desperately needs.
The Rev. Steve Stockman, minister of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, shared from his experience of restoration between Ireland and Northern Ireland in chapel on Nov. 11.
“All the enmity that is in our world needs to be turned around,” Stockman said. “All the alienation between people and nations and colors and races needs to be turned around . . . That’s what Jesus was doing his three years. He was compromising all of the enmity that were going on the culture of his day, because he was compromising the ultimate enmity between a holy God and sinful humanity . . . in all his relationships that’s what he was about — peacemaking, reconciliation.”
With the grace and tactfulness Christ carried, let’s listen to each other. Let’s ask why someone feels a certain way. Let’s be willing to be wrong, or at least willing to see each other as more than an opponent.
How much different would this world look if we had Christians who behaved like that?