Last month, I found myself sitting in on a plenary session at a conference. The speaker began by stating declarations that, from the beginning, I was in total disagreement with. I found myself cringing internally as he continued his presentation. In my opinion, it was a barrage of culturally-popular but irrational statements that made no sense at all.
Eventually, I became very angry, disgusted, and just flat-out wanting to leave the room. I couldn’t take it anymore!
Have you ever felt this way?
The reality is that we will encounter opposing views. Whether it’s in the public square, our families, our friendships, or our workplaces, we are assured to bump into others with opposing views. And for those who have a heart to engage others outside the walls of Watermark, we're even more likely to encounter challenging or opposing views.
So as followers of Jesus who are on mission, we need to be ready to effectively engage those who think differently than us. Obviously, my reaction to that speaker wasn't a good example to follow!
2 Timothy 2:24-25 says,
And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth... (ESV)
Let’s be honest. When many of us encounter someone with an opposing view, we quickly lose perspective and turn the dialogue into a boxing match, where the end is about winning the argument. I know that’s been the case for me many times. But it has led to a place where I lose all relationship ties with that individual and destroy my chances for future conversations.
But as Paul writes in the passage above, as followers of Jesus we must not be quarrelsome, or seek an argument, but be humble listeners full of hope. When we engage others with the understanding that our place in God’s redemptive story is only to be heralds of His message - and not their savior - our objective is not to win, but to accurately reveal His heart. We are not called to change people’s hearts, but rather to be faithful stewards of His work until He returns.
Patience is not my strong suit. I want quick results and want to see people change their ways AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. In a sense, I easily place myself on a higher ground and think I know better than the person I’m engaging.
But the funny thing is that, in God’s eyes, I’m no different. In my arrogance, I have an even more dire need of Jesus than the person I’m talking with. Could you imagine if God treated me the same way I treat the people around me who have views that oppose mine?
Instead, God’s grace towards us reveals how He is patient with us. He never loses His identity of being a kind and loving God. So we need to be slow to anger. And in some instances, we may simply need to endure with that person until God changes their heart.
I don’t know about you, but it’s easier for me to accept correction from people I know. Now, I may not agree with their observations, but there is a higher chance I’ll hear them out - because we have a relationship. As we are on mission, the opportunities to correct others will be abundant. But we should hear Paul’s words above - and correct with gentleness. And that's especially true if we haven't had the chance to build relationship with them.
Now you may be in the camp that avoids correcting others because it may lead to conflict. But as followers of Jesus, we are commissioned to share God’s truth because it is what will set people free. So our avoidance of correction could be what’s keeping people enslaved in their hurts and hang-ups. Truth given with gentleness reveals God’s love for the world - but also the love we have for that individual with an opposing view.
So a person with an opposing view is not really any different than us in God’s eyes. We are all in need of Him and we must not think otherwise. May we be humble and full of hope, patient and kind, and faithful to correct gently in all our ministry efforts.
To learn more about being externally focused, join us weekly for a new External Focus blog - or get them delivered to you by email using the form below!