We bear our beliefs like banners: Republican or Democrat. Pro-life or pro-choice. Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter. Feminist, socialist, libertarian, traditionalist. We scream at each other and over each other and louder and louder and louder and-
Aren’t you tired?
Diversity in perhaps its most divisive form is diversity of thought. When we talk to people who think differently than us, our disagreements can spring up like fences that separate. So what do we do? We charge in with our convictions in attempts to be heard, to have our own way. To be right. And we don’t care what it costs us.
I am reminded of James, one of the most practical books in the Bible. “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters,” it says, “You must all be quick to listen” and “slow to speak” (New Living Translation, 1:19).
Growing up, I watched my grandfather pastor a predominantly black, Baptist church. After I accepted Jesus into my life, my eyes were opened to reformed theology and I started to become very critical of the black church. It was too hope-oriented, I thought, and not challenging enough. Do you know what helped me understand? Sitting down with my grandfather and engaging in conversation. You see, there’s a specific part of the gospel that black people really comprehend and that’s this idea of future hope. For a long time, future hope is all to which we had to hold on during the hardships of our cultural circumstances and social struggles. As I listened to my grandfather, I began to see how the past shapes the present. I began to understand.Everyone has a worldview. Everyone has a specific way of thinking that has been shaped by individual and cultural experiences, whether it is a racist upbringing in the rural south or a harsh interaction with inner city law enforcement. What our parents talked about at the dinner table, the news programs we turn on at night, how often we read – these things all influence, for better or for worse, how we interact with our world.
We are convinced that listening will pollute us. We are afraid that what someone else has to say will wear on us. But I believe that approaching a conversation with a posture of listening and a desire for learning creates room for understanding. And knowing where someone comes from can be helpful when addressing potentially prejudiced, or even dangerous, points of views.
When was the last time you engaged in conversation with someone who did not think like you?
When was the last time you took a backseat to being right?
Try it this week – approach someone who is politically, theologically, socially (or whatever it is) different than you. Practice being slow to speak and quick to listen. Be inquisitive and patient. Ask questions. Seek the why behind their convictions and watch what happens when understanding occurs. You never know – the fences might just come tumbling down.
Written by Adrian Crawford and Nina Rodriguez-Marty