Listening With Love

I’m opinionated. I have some very strong held beliefs. As a result, I can get really riled up when hearing or reading opposing beliefs and opinions. Based on what I see every day in the news and on social media, I’m not alone. We are in the midst of a war of opinions. As this war has escalated over the past year God has continually been working on my heart and convicting me of a certain truth. We are called to love not to hate. We are called to be a people who are known for our love.

A new command I give: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  John 13:34-35

So how do we love one another in the midst of this war?

It starts with taking control of our instant reactions. When I was in seminary the first class we were required to take was essentially a “how to survive seminary” course. Seminary would require us to read lots of material that we might not agree with. One of the key things we needed to learn was to be able to temporarily shelve our opinions so we could take an objective approach to the material. Let’s face it, that’s easier said than done. Yet scripture continually calls us to be patient in our actions towards others, to listen without speaking, to not act in anger. The only way we can really do that is with the help of the Holy Spirit. There’s a reason why the fruits of the spirit include gentleness, kindness and self-control.

This doesn’t mean we let go of our convictions. Jeremiah tells us that if we don’t stand firm in our faith we won’t stand at all. But what comes after controlling our reactions? We need to really listen. Yes, I have strong held beliefs, but so do they. Am I willing to humble myself and listen to what they are saying? This is important for lots of reasons including understanding why they believe what they do. One of the tragedies of this current climate is the unwillingness to consider the validity of the other side. There are real reasons why they believe as they do just as I have my reasons. Humility says that I need to consider what they have to say.

Once we get through all of that, scripture is clear that if we still disagree, we are to approach correction and rebuttal with gentleness and respect. This may be the most heartbreaking part of what we see happening around us. The lack of respect continually demonstrated towards each other is simply ugly. There really is no other way to describe it.

The real key for us as followers of Christ is to constantly remember that each and every person is made in the image of God. Yes, sin has corrupted this image in all of us, me included, but we are all bearers of His image and even more importantly loved by Him. Christ demonstrated this love by dying for us while we were still in our sin. Can I not do the same in His power? Can I die to myself, die to my instant reactions, and demonstrate respect toward others? It completely changes the game when we can enter into these interactions of opinion and belief with simple respect. It doesn’t guarantee we’ll get along, and it doesn’t guarantee that opinions will change.

But it does mean we will see more of God’s presence in the discussion as He works in our hearts and minds.