Christians, Pet Assumptions and Unity

People are horrible listeners. It is nearly impossible to have discussions with people because they don’t listen to what you are saying. I am just as guilty.

We all know that while talking to others, our minds are off getting our rebuttal ready. Since we are so geared up for demonstrating our flawless logic, we don’t hear what the other person is saying.

But that’s OK, because they aren’t listening to you either.

After talking for a while, and not having heard anything the other person said, both go away thinking, “Man, what an idiot, I’m not convinced one bit by anything they said.”

After being around Christians you can guess what people are going to say. I”m already pretty sure what answer I’ll be given to any question I am asking. Since I already know what the answer will be, there’s not much sense in actually listening to the answer!

I then launch into my diatribe against the answer I assume they gave and on we go.

In the end, no one has heard anything be we both assume we have.

Our emotions drive our assumptions, not our reasoning skills. Our Pet Doctrines are usually linked with our Pet People, so we hear everything as an attack and our emotions get riled up and our assumptions start flowing.

Soon we’re not talking about doctrine, we’re talking about whether or not people are saved, or whether the foundations of righteousness are being blasted away to make a new parking lot.

I believe that sane Christian dialogue is possible, but only to the extent that we remove self-defensiveness, otherwise known as “pride.” Doctrine is not about defending you, or defending your favorite doctrine or guy, but about growing into Christ.

We all know this when it comes to homosexuals–“we love the sinner, not the sin.” Why is it then so hard for us to love the doctrinal believer if not the doctrine?

Doctrine is crucial. I, in no way, mean to undermine doctrinal integrity or learning. I do, however, mean to help in this area and no help is possible as long as we have Pet anythings that we are sentimentally, emotionally wrapped up in that will keep us from actual growth.

I am also not saying that emotions should be stripped from our doctrine! Emotions are fine, great, indispensable to growth, but not if the emotions are wrapped up in envy, bitterness, pride and selfishness.

I call for doctrinal certitude mixed with personal humility. There is always an outside chance I am wrong, or you are wrong, or perhaps even both of us are!

2 thoughts on “Christians, Pet Assumptions and Unity”

  1. Jeff,

    I love what you have to say here, we all tend to be willing to throw out brotherly unity to make our point, and crush the other person’s point of view. It’s no secret that you and I hold very different views about man’s free-will and God’s providence, but I count you a brother in the Lord. I think it is possible to have a genuine healthy dialogue with other believers who hold a different doctrinal view, if we put aside our human pride, good word brother.

    Oh, and by the way it’s definitely you who is wrong :-) (couldn’t resist)

  2. I try to check myself if I find my mind forming an argument while the other person is talking. We are not here to defend ourselves (that’s God’s duty). We are here to help each other and unless we listen very closely, so that we can discern the real issue behind the words, we won’t be able to help. At the same time, maybe it’s us that needs the help, in which case listening closely is still the best practice!

    I like to think of Jesus’ treatment of the nobleman who came to request healing for his son (John 4). It only says “he besought him that he would come down, and heal his son.” But Jesus discerned the unbelief, and said, “Except you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” It takes careful listening (with the mind open to the Holy Spirit) to discern those kinds of things.

    The nobleman, realizing that Jesus had just read his doubtful thoughts, which he had tried not to show, must have understood at this point that he was in the presence of divinity. If Jesus could read his thoughts, He certainly had a connection with God that would enable Him to heal his son. He suddenly saw that his unbelief would cost the life of his son, and with full faith in Christ as the only hope, he pleaded, “Sir, come down, ere my child die!” Jesus saw the faith, and granted him the request.

    This wonderful result was accomplished by careful listening!

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