Archive for March 18th, 2011

People everywhere are up in arms… over something somebody said… that one time. People everywhere are in agreement… with something somebody said… at that one event. Despite the cultural milieu of post-modernity and post post-modernity, we have this tremendous knack for seeing (at least some) things in black and white. Lines are drawn. Sides are taken. You’re either for or against something, there is no middle ground. And you must make up your mind, especially about the things I find important.

You Are Wrong Some of the Time
Obviously you wouldn’t state your case, or even hold the position you do about a given subject if you did not believe that you were right. But you can’t be right all of the time. If you were, you’d be omniscient. You are probably right about quite a bit that you speak on, but if you haven’t spent a lot of time with your subject material, don’t be surprised when others tell you that you are off base. I witnessed a group of individuals talking about how stupid an all electric car would be. Why? Because the raw material consumption and pollution output to manufacture and deliver batteries for an electric car is greater than the consumption and pollution from a gas powered car? Because the cost of electricity plus the initial cost of the vehicle provides no financial savings over keeping your gas powered car? Because the network grid is unstable and worn out in many places and won’t be able to viably sustain an extended fleet of electric vehicles? No. Their complaint? Because after driving to the restaurant, who would want to run an extension chord up to the building so that you’d have enough power to get home.

Not only can you be wrong in the views you hold to, you can also be wrong about the other person’s views. Often when we receive a message (audibly or visually), what we take away from that message, and what the person sitting next to us takes away can be very different. It’s one of the funniest and scariest things for preachers when talking with their listeners after a sermon to hear the words, “I like it when you said… .” The reason this can be funny and/or scary is because half of the time, what proceeds from their mouths after that phrase was never said by the preacher. In fact, it may not have even had anything to do with the subject of the sermon.

The Person With Whom You Disagree May Be Right Some of the Time
We’ve talked here in the past about charitable reading. Lately, this has been getting confused with being a “fanboy” for some individual. I remember the first book by John Piper that I read, “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.” It was for a preaching class in an institution that had some major theological disagreements (as do I) with John Piper. The teacher of the course did not have us read the book because he agreed with everything Piper said. I know for a fact that he did not agree. He had us read the book because Piper had some good things to say, and because it brought up some important issues for preachers to think about.

If you only surround yourself with messages (and the people that communicate them) that you completely agree with, then you are in fact doing what Paul condemns in 2 Timothy 4:3, “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.” So that I’m clear, I am not saying that we should only read people we disagree with and surround ourselves with people with think are wrong about the essentials. However, if you regularly read/listen to somebody’s teaching and you find yourself shouting in agreement, but not cut to the heart, there’s a good chance that verse applies to you.

Being Wrong Doesn’t Make A Person Evil
Being evil makes a person evil (and wrong). I wonder if at any time in our lives as we grew old enough to debate with somebody that we made the connections: I like puppies – I disagree with that person – that person must be wrong – that person must hate puppies – that person is evil. We seem to be especially adept at drawing such conclusions when it comes to politics and religion. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart gets much of its material from people arguing (often incessantly and stupidly) their political or religious position by attacking their opponents (instead of the views that their opponents hold).

It isn’t just in politics and religion that we almost instantaneously vilify the people we disagree with. I recently read a post about IE 9 (Internet Explorer version 9) that gave 5 reasons why the blog author still didn’t think it was a good web browser to use. There were some illogical arguments, some irrational points of view, and some inflammatory language. It also brought up some interesting and valid points. I’m not unbiased, but I could still see that there were parts of the article to consider and parts to throw away. And yet the comments in response to the article were just as, if not more emphatic on the other side of the authors point of view, to the point of demonizing the author. The comments seemed angry and spiteful, as if the blogger had attacked them personally.

Should we even talk about these things? Absolutely. When we do, Christ must be the foundation for our relationships with others and our communication with them. Where you live, where you use to live, the jobs you’ve held, your education, tragedies you’ve experienced, life events, family members (your life history) all plays a role in how you perceive and understand what is communicated. I think it’s time we let Christ play the greatest role in how we communicate. May you read and listen with patience, understanding, and charity and may your words, written and spoken, be full of gentleness, self-control, and grace.

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