Monday, 6 December 2010

Keeping Discussions Edifying

I'm a person that likes a good discussion. I think it's good when people can get together and share their different opinions, viewpoints and convictions on different issues. It challenges you to be sure of what you believe and stand for and it's also an opportunity to open up and let people see who you are.

However, sometimes these good discussions can easily turn into arguments and debates that are less than edifying. And often by the time that happens, the people involved are so focused on pushing their points they hardly notice or care that the conversation has taken a negative turn. I am one of those.

It's easy to "believe" something because somebody else said it. Saying "That sounds good to me so that's what I now believe too" is just too convenient, especially when you trust the person who said it. The problem is that you haven't actually looked into the matter yourself, never thought it through and don't know if it actually has any true scriptural basis. You just assume it is because so-and-so said it so it must be right. Then you get into these lively arguments and discover you have nothing to back up your ideas.

Back to my point. It's good to have discussions but it's also easy to become very defensive or to attack other people for what they believe. Instead of promoting unity and edification, it turns bad. So I guess what I'm trying to get at is how to have discussions, express our opinions and disagree in a proper manner. And just to be clear, I'm thinking this through because I've realized my own negative tendencies in this area.

For one, it's okay to disagree. I would almost go so far as to say that it's good to disagree. If you agree with everything everybody else says, that may be a good indication something is wrong in your way of thinking. You're not filtering what you're hearing and measuring it up against what you know to be right and true or what the Bible says.

Secondly, you can still love each other even when you disagree. You can still enjoy fellowship with each other as the body of Christ. Also remember that the Spirit of God works differently in people. He may not have convicted your friend of the same thing He has you. And you know what, maybe He never will. Some people think that God convicts people all of the same, but it's simply not true.

James 3:17
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (ESV)

When I read this verse awhile ago, I think the part that stuck out to me the most was "open to reason." A person who is truly wise is open to reason. But a lot of Christians are just the opposite. When questioned about what they believe or an area of their life, they instantly become defensive and often upset or angry. They're not open to the possibility that they might be wrong and the other right. In their minds, they're right, no questions asked, discussion closed. There's no reasoning with them.

I've found myself on both ends. I have a tendency to both attack and defend. It's not wrong to suggest someone else may not be right, but be careful in how you do that.

Like the above verse says, be gentle and peaceable. Attack the opinion, not the person. Try saying, "I disagree with that idea" or express your concern in the form of a question instead of flat out saying "That's wrong." When somebody makes a good point, say so. Make sure you understand what is said. When things warm up, it's easy to misunderstand people and get the totally wrong idea.

Most of all, hear people out. As much as you want to get your two cents in, listen to what others have to say. Don't hog the floor. And be open to reason. As much as it may hurt your pride, the truth is you're not always right. Be open to that possibility. And if you think people are shutting out everything you have to say, don't worry. They may not look like they care what you have to say and don't push it onto them. But chances are, what you have said will stay with them and they will think it over later. They won't show you it and it may take a long time, but they might just come around to your way of thinking.

2 Timothy 2:23
But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. (KJV)

Ephesians 4:29
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (ESV)

So remember, discussions are great but keep away from arguing. Sometimes it may be wiser to stay on safer subjects than diving into controversial conversations. Build up rather than tear down. If you disagree, that's okay. Just be willing to listen.

In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the beginning of our real Canadian winter.

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