Generally, I am content to go with the flow. I don’t like confrontation, I don’t like to stand out, and if possible, I am perfectly content to live at peace with everyone. That is until I see that the flow of things is going in the wrong direction. At that point, I am obligated switch my direction. People don’t like it when you switch directions. In fact, they can get downright nasty. Long-term friends can quickly become bitter enemies.
I know about this because I have switched directions several times in my life, and each time I have lost what I considered good friends. The common thought is: “you now think you’re better than me.” It’s not that I think I’m better than anybody, it’s a matter of reaching the conclusion that my previous behavior was wrong.
In 1987, I quit drinking, smoking, and doing any kind of recreational drugs. Why? I saw where it was leading. After a night in jail, several nights driving by brail, and coming very close to losing my job, I realized this is not working for me. My friends really didn’t approve of the change.
The same takes place with Christians as well. There are somethings I used to believe and teach that I no longer can. I have not only seen the errors in what I once believed, I have also seen the damage that such teaching causes to the church. Now I am very sensitive in approaching such topics because it took me a long time to become convinced myself. At the same time, I can’t exactly remain quiet about such matters either. So I always try to direct people to examine the Scriptures instead of our traditions and preconceived ideas. This doesn’t always go over so well. It’s sad, but I think many Christians have lost the desire to learn. Instead, we turn to the Bible and gather around us teachers who will simply confirm what we already think. Paul warned Timothy:
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear (2Ti 4:3).
That time is here. In fact it’s always been here. I have heard this verse quoted many times, but it always refers to those outside of our circle. We make up our minds that they are wrong before we ever hear what they have to say. Instead of listening and learning, we shut the door and shut them up. We don’t want to learn, we want to confirm. So we gather inside denominational walls where we only allow people who think what we think.
If somebody slips in who thinks otherwise, that’s when it can get nasty. People will silence them, slander them, hate them, and sometimes even punch them. There was a time in the past when such a person was even killed. What we rarely do is listen to them. What are we afraid of? Being wrong, that’s what we’re afraid of?
I don’t mind it so much anymore. I’m wrong quite frequently. It’s not a bad thing. In fact, being wrong is all about learning what’s right, and I like to learn. When we seek only to confirm what we already believe, we resist learning. Still, it’s hard for people to know the difference between learning and confirming. So, I’ve come up with three questions to ask yourself when your views are challenged.
Are you willing to listen?
Why would anybody be afraid to listen to somebody. Listening does not mean agreeing, but I can see no harm in hearing what a person has to say. When you are afraid to listen, what is it that you’re really afraid of? You’re afraid you may be wrong, and if you’re wrong you may have to change. OH NO!!! NOT THE “C” WORD. There is no threat in listening if you are seeking to learn. If the person is speaking falsehood, you shouldn’t have any trouble pointing out the flaws. There’s nothing lost if you disagree. In fact, it a Christian duty to kindly point out what is wrong with what they are teaching. Even at a complete impass, at least you can understand what they think and why. Chances are you may be able to respect their view even if you disagree.
Are you feeling threatened?
The all-time biggest hint that you are seeking to confirm instead of learn is when you respond with anger. We respond with anger because we feel threatened. Truth is not threatened by ignorance. You don’t need to get mad. Instead, seek to understand, then you can see clearly to attempt to correct. There are some things that we are never going to reach complete agreement on. That’s alright. But when we start down the road of slander and bitterness, the problem is not with the person we disagree with; the problems is with us.
Are you willing to change?
This one really stumps me, but I see it all the time. People are shown verse after verse to the point that they can no longer logically defend their position, and they respond by saying something like, “I know that’s what the Bible seems to say, but just can’t go there.” Really? “You’ve answered all my questions, you’ve explained all my objections, but I’m still going to disagree even if I don’t know why.” Well, it’s time to move on. My uncle used to always tell me that you can’t argue with ignorance. You also can’t teach those who think they already know, nor can you teach somebody who has already made up their mind. Such people are not willing to learn.