“Stop talking about the world and start talking to it.” That’s a phrase my friend Bob Roberts is known to say. I’ve been thinking a lot about it in recent days. When I disagree with someone, I am trained to listen, but I have a tendency to talk about them in a variety of ways rather than continuing a healthy conversation with them. How do you respond when something is disagreeable or just plain wrong from God’s perspective?
Christians light up Facebook, Twitter, and other media modalities when a topic is covered in the public square that tramples on a biblical standard. And while there is no question that followers of Jesus need to stand up and represent his truth, much attention that needs to be given toward how to address it and others with a certain slant on things. In other words, it is not always all about what one says, but how one says it when responding to any bit of information or opinion.
When something that is acceptable in any culture contradicts God’s standard, what steps can we consider as we deal with the individuals and situations involved?
- Pray. Pray that we will have the heart and mind of Jesus Christ. We need his wisdom because in order to be heard by those who oppose God’s ways, we must be smart in how we approach a person or topic. Pray that God’s words will fill your mouth. And pray that the message you are delivering is both pleasing to God and heard by all.
- Listen. Prayer involves listening to God and being led by him. We have two ears and one mouth. This physiological reality should guide the ratio of how much we listen vs. how much we talk. Listening does not mean you are condoning someone else’s viewpoint. Listening means you respect the person talking as a person who is created in the image of God.
- Invest time. It is easy to spout off about something or someone without first getting the facts straight. Will we invest the kind of time to walk slowly with someone whom we disagree with in order to let them know we value them as a person created by God? It doesn’t mean we have to agree with them, but we can honor them as a soul that God loves and gave his life for through the gift of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Perhaps you are like me needing the reminder that this person spewing their thoughts is someone who will spend eternity somewhere!
- Know where you stand. Before giving an answer, have you studied the biblical truth on the subject? If you have, then stand. Don’t be a jerk about it. Simply take your stand. You have every right (and responsibility) to state your viewpoint and be given the respect of uninterrupted conversation.
- Speak the truth in love. Tell the person you disagree with that you respect him or her as a person. Tell this person about God’s love for all through Jesus Christ. Start your conversation with the reassurance that you are not the great judge of the universe. Don’t compromise the truth of God, but express it with all of the love and grace that Christ wants desperately represented to a world full of individuals who are lost and making up the rules for living all on their own.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is John 1:14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Grace comes first, and truth is also needed in the conversation. May you and I be so full of Jesus that his grace and truth spill out of our lives through our words, thoughts, and deeds. Stop talking about the world and start talking to it!
Jim Dunn is executive director of Church Multiplication and Discipleship for The Wesleyan Church.