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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This entry was posted on Friday, March 18th, 2011 at 1:25 am and is filed under Devotional, In Tone and Character. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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9 Comments(+Add)

1   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 18th, 2011 at 8:01 am

Ver few things are worth “fighting” over. We all are right and wrong about a list of things. But there are a small set of truths that are not up for grabs and about which we are expected to defend AND live.

Many were offended at Christ’s words and no one would suggest He did not speak with charity and grace. If we “let Christ play the greatest role in how we perceive and understyand what is communicated” it still does not assure us of conflict free spiritual lives.

Sometimes those who defend redemptive truth do so in their own flesh and strength. But sometimes those who refuse to speak against abberant teachings do so in their own flesh and strength.

And we must be led of the Spirit and not our desire to separate ourselves from the perception that we are in alliance with those who are self righteous and consumed with doctrinal battles of all sorts.

“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.”

Amen.

2   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
March 18th, 2011 at 11:15 am

Rick,

I had in my mind as I wrote this that what I was writing won’t apply to every situation and that there certainly are issues and topics that we should speak to. I chose to keep the article shorter by not bringing that up, but I appreciate your input.

3   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 18th, 2011 at 12:04 pm

My input was not to find fault with your post. I found your post balanced and challenging.

4   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
March 18th, 2011 at 12:56 pm

I know it wasn’t to find fault. I was just pointing out that I too had considered what you brought up.

5   Nathan    
March 18th, 2011 at 1:11 pm

I think it’s true that we should read people we disagree with, AND NOT just to simply find more ways to disagree with them.

6   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
March 21st, 2011 at 11:00 am

Here’s an interview with Martin Bashir, outlining his views on his interview with Rob Bell. It is quite well done, giving Bashir a platform to explain the path he took:

http://www.godandculture.com/blog/msnbcs-martin-bashir-on-the-paul-edwards-program

7   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 22nd, 2011 at 12:37 am

Actually, Bashir kept cutting off Bell in the interview and asking questions that were false dichotomies. It also appeared that there may have been a good deal of editing going on w/ the interview…

8   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
March 22nd, 2011 at 8:49 am

I listened to the beginning of that interview with Bashir, but I had to turn it off. First of all, anoyone who calls Bell an “Emergent Universalist” like the blogger does in his little write-up is simply wrong from the get-go. Bashir sounds genuinely pissed off at Bell for some reason. So much for journalistic objectivity. Even the letter that he quotes from Luther as some sort of gotcha on Bell doesn’t disprove anything Bell says in the book. Bell doesn’t say that faith is optional. I don’t know what Bashir’s issue with Bell is, but it’s obviously he has something against him.

I find it funny that Christians are so quick to jump into bed with a mainstream media person as soon as does something they like. It’s the old, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” thing, I guess. These are the same people that complain whenever Republicans are misrepresented by these same networks, and guess what, they use the same sort of techniques with them as they did with Bell. It’s amazing that when you attack the right people, you’re considered “impartial”…

9   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 22nd, 2011 at 11:36 am

It is just another example of predisposition.

Impartiality is a subjective perspective. :cool: