Better difficult conversations:

Setting the table

Better difficult conversations: Setting the table

BY DR. DARRELL BOCK
DALLAS THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. – James 1:19-20

S ometimes the most substantive conversations we have are the difficult ones.  

Whether we’re talking with a child, a spouse, a colleague or discussing core life values,  we often find ourselves engaging with someone who disagrees about what is going on or what needs to be done. This also is the case for conversations about religious differences.  

Christians tend to think about such conversations by simply asking how another person’s religious viewpoint does not line up with the Bible. This is important to know – and have an awareness of – to know where the faith discussion fits.  

However, there is another way to have such discussions that can help in engagement. It is not only to learn the beliefs of another faith but why someone might be drawn to give their life to this way of viewing faith.  

I call this getting a spiritual GPS on a person – finding out with full curiosity what makes them tick and what is driving their spiritual quest.  

How does this person approach faith? 

As the conversation begins, the goal is to determine where the other person is coming from in approaching faith. Rather than being concerned with where you are in faith, focus on where your conversation partner is. Then work from there.  

How does the gospel speak to that approach? 

In pursuing answers to these questions, you can then explore how the gospel can speak into those inclinations. However, to get there, you must understand how difficult conversations work if they are going to go somewhere.

Learning the skill

 

Developing skill at having difficult conversations is hard because we must unlearn certain habits. We must be clear about how to change the way most of us engage when the conversation gets hard.  

This blog is about setting the table for a better difficult conversation. In later blogs, I will look at what derails and what advances such conversations. Our instinct in difficult conversations is to defend turf, to be right. But that is counterproductive. It’s not because we should not defend our views, but because that defense is harmed when we start with the conclusion. In such circumstances – and this is common in difficult conversations – we do not have a constructive conversation but simply a defense.  

You can test how you are approaching a conversation by whether you are actually making an effort to listen and understand your conversation partner or forming how you will rebut what he or she is saying. 

Here are some guidelines for giving yourself a chance to have a good conversation. 

1. Clarify the conflict

It is important to understand each other and the exact nature of the disagreement. This needs to be mutually agreed upon as an initial goal, if possible. This means being able to repeat what your conversation partner is saying in ways where they say, “Yes, you understand me and what I am saying.”

2. Articulate both viewpoints

Understanding and being able to gain understanding does not equal agreement. They are distinct. In other words, moving to a mutual understanding is not compromise nor is it leaving behind convictions. It is simply laying the groundwork for a better substantive conversation.  

Understanding means you can articulate what another is saying and even why without necessarily agreeing this is so. Because each person in the conversation takes on this responsibility to try to make sure a good conversation is taking place, each person will get their chance to articulate where they are coming from and why.  

In this phase of a conversation, there is no room for rebuttal or for changing the subject by adding another element to the conversation. (That move often can derail any progress by complicating the conversation.) Rather, the goal is to align where each person is and why. With alignment, both of you can pursue either what needs to be done to fix things or determine exactly why you disagree. This puts you in a better place to assess what is going on.  

3. Agree to assess the issue

Having a better understanding of each other puts you both in a better place to make an assessment about what is going on between you. When you can agree where the actual differences exist, you are in a better place to figure out what can come next, even if it ends in an assessment that you value different things and thus come to different conclusions. 

All of this assumes our first responsibility in difficult conversations is to give an initial priority to really listening. I usually know where I stand and why, but what I may need to learn is why someone is coming from a different place than I am. 

These are initial points about difficult conversations and how to engage in them with the hope of progress. This sets the table with a chance of getting somewhere. There are other factors, such as what we do to undercut such progress and what we can do to advance the chance for progress. Those are the topics to come.

Dr. Darrell Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He hosts The Table Podcast, leading discussions related to God, Christianity and culture.

139 Comments

  1. Thank You !!! This will help me to start a good conversation. It’s hard enough to start a conversation but with these guidelines it will be easier.This is what I needed to learn. Hopefully by applying this methods my conversations with my colleagues in BBF,family ,and friends will be more interesting and better.

  2. I admit I have not had too much time to read and absorb what has been diligently put into this blog…but I did this week and have gained so much useful knowledge. I believe this information is so valuable, not only for conversation among BSF ladies but in everyday life as well. The more understanding and insight we give to our everyday conversations, the better equipped we become (as has been noted) in the more difficult conversations about God and faith. I want to discuss God and faith with others and to do it without condemning anyone is wonderful. I will be putting this into practice!!

    Thank you so much!

    • This could not be more timely! I had a difficult conversation with another believer just yesterday. Not on the topic of Christianity per se but the topic has the potential to affect what we believe as Christians. We ended up with our own views on the matter but it is one that has come up before and sure to come up again. Putting into practice what Dr. Darrell Bock has said will certainly result in a better conversation next time.

    • So true, I really try to practice listening, and communicating effectively in several small groups.Yet, when the subjects are hard and people are wounded,expressing sadness or defeat.I sometimes try to fix out of genuine concern and frustration. Unfortunately, that’s not according to the Word of God. I’m so thankful for these clear communication learning tools provided and more to come.

  3. Thank you for sharing. This is a very timely message. I am currently in Nepal. This is a country where Hindu and Buddism are the common religion. I am living with a host family and God has enabled me to share with my host mum the gospel as we interacted in her kitchen. I first asked about her beliefs and tried to listen keenly and then shared mine. As days have gone by she has been coming up with questions for me about Christianity and my beliefs. I pray that God will work through me. I thank God for this opportunity. Thank you BSF.

    • I am so pleased to hear about your work. May the Lord our God through the Holy Spirit enable you to have the just right things to say at the correct time. You are doing great. Keep sharing.

  4. Thanks for sharing. This is very helpful and timely.

  5. This! Amen.

    “You can test how you are approaching a conversation by whether you are actually making an effort to listen and understand your conversation partner or forming how you will rebut what he or she is saying. “

  6. Thanks. It reminds me of: James 1 : 19 ”let every man be swift to hear [listen], slow to speak, [slows] to wrath. 20: For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness [good relationship, friendliness, peace and understanding God wants us to have] of God.

    “To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation” Chinese proverb.

    “……However, being patient, tolerant and good listener will win you more friends, improve your relationships, and get you more useful ideas and practical tips that can help you in many ways” – Remez Sasson in The Benefits of being a Good Listener

  7. On Grace To You blog this morning, Friday Feb 22, John MacArthur tells how we should engage people with God’s truth. I highly recommend listening to his very short message. We are called to speak God’s Word, not be politically correct and make people happy.

    https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B190222

    John MacArthur on Courage and Confidence

    by Jeremiah Johnson Friday, February 22, 2019

    “Few things today are as valuable as carefully chosen words. In an environment where critics and opponents are looking for excuses to be offended, bold speech and clear language are increasingly rare.

    God’s people are not immune to this trend toward enforced inoffensiveness. We have all felt the familiar twinge of societal pressure to stay silent when we ought speak up, or to dull the sharp edges of truth that cuts to the quick. While we rightly long to be clear and courageous communicators of God’s Word, the reality is that we often fall short.

    We have been called to preach a gospel the world wants nothing to do with; to be messengers of a message the world rejects and hates. How do we cultivate the courage we need to faithfully proclaim the truth? How do we steel ourselves against the societal pressures to stay silent?
    Christians can’t be afraid of offending the world with the truth. But don’t mistake that as an argument for cavalier boorishness. It’s not the work of the gospel if you’re looking to pick a fight. Instead, like John said, we need to cultivate a high view of Scripture, and take our boldness from our conviction that God’s truth alone can rescue sinners and save souls. Confidence in the Word of God is the key to courageous Christianity.”

    • I agree with much of the above. We need to pray for opportunities to share and be great listeners to the heart of the matter, as Jesus always did (e.g. with the woman at the well – John 4). The saying “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care”, has merit. A Pastor said “we’re not the Judge” (God the father is Psalm 75: 7); “we’re not the Advocate” (Jesus our High Priest advocates for us (1 John 2: 1)(the Holy Spirit is John 14: 26) – but we are the Witness (Matt 28: 16 – 20 – Great Commission). So, when the opportunity arises, we can witness (not judge them, or take responsibility for their answers) about what God has done in our lives as the Spirit leads.

      We need to “be prepared to give an answer” 1 Peter 3:15 if someone asks us. This encourages us to be grounded in the Word, like BSF. We do not need to be worried that they will ask us something we don’t know, because we can trust that the holy Spirit will give us the answer we need when we need it. Luke 12: 11 – 12; Mark13: 11; Matt 10: 19. (Also blog “Desiring God” by John Piper).

      Also we need to remember that “some sow and others reap”. John 4: 37. 1 Cor. 3: 6 – 9. That is, we can be in a conversation and someone is ready to accept Christ right away. They could have been witnessed to many times for years, and we are “reaping”. Or our conversation could be initiated and used by God to “sow” seed that later will be “reaped” at a crusade or private prayer. We don’t know, God does, our responsibility is to be faithful and love them.

    • When it comes to presenting the gospel, listening is essential. Just as importantly, the Bible is not a weapon to tell non-believers to turn or burn. After walking away from God, for 25 years I was hit again and again with why I needed to be saved. The “problem”…the approach was polarizing….I viewed Christians as hard liners and inflexible.

      What changed…I met a Christian, who listened and basically said, your story is just like mine. That’s when the light bulb came on!

      Listen to Ravi Zacharias on YouTube…he is the most artful apologist there is and a master at listening but NOT compromising truth. As my mentor said, “if it wasn’t for Christian’s, there would be more Christians.”

  8. This addresses a topic I have never heard addressed. It is so easy to engage in small talk, but how does one successfully engage and continue in conversations that may be difficult, but ever so important? I am truly looking forward to these articles!

    • We have to understand that there are some conversations that we cannot have, because of how passionate we are about the subject. Politics is one of them. It is inevitable that the more passionate you are about them the less talk you going to have about them. And the more chance there’s going to be a very heated argument about them. Because you’re trying to get them to understand you’re in there trying to get you to understand and if you can’t about certain subjects, like politics, these principles will not work.

      But I come to the the side that says, you hear there point and they hear yours, and if you cannot you can come to irrational conclusion within the first 5 minutes, then you move on. It’s inevitable with certain subjects, that you’re going to end up in an argument, because one of you is going to get heated. And by that point you can’t even agree to disagree. So you give your viewpoint they give there’s, and you listen to each other. But if you can’t come to and understanding that you disagree with each other, you move on. You don’t keep trying to beat a dead horse. Even in the church, between Christians, you can always have a conversation where everything’s at peace even if you disagree. Somebody’s going to get upset.

  9. This has taught me to be patient enough to first learn the other person’s perspective in conversation without necessarily striving to impose my own on him. It calls for self control and focus, with an arrow prayer for God’s help. I cannot wait to see and learn more from the rest of the series. Thanks.

    • Thanks Susie for sharing the blog. God bless!

    • Yes I have learned that patient in listening and respecting the other person’s views without compromising the truth of the Giopel of Jesus Christ with constant dependent on the Holy Spirit which calls for arrow prayer with grace and humility have helped me as I reach out to students from different ethinicity , I am thankful for the blog and I am sure it would help me to further the Kingdom of Jesus with godly wisdom shared by friends in the blog.

      • Thank you Susie
        That was so helpful
        A refresher course on the art of listening and thereby becoming more sensitive thus being able to rebut in an amicable manner which then becomes more acceptable to both parties and fruitful Thanks and God bless
        Yvette Pereira

  10. Thanks. I just wonder how we may use the non-verbal expressions during difficult conversations because often times the body language may at times conflict with our effort to create harmonious discussions.

    • You are so right about body language!
      It affects the conversation

  11. Glory to God. It can never be the same again with all these information. God bless you so much. Its my desire to preach his Gospel and he knows how heart. How I long to be like David. God bless you abundantly.

  12. Thank you so much. Very informative, .much appreciated. it’s good to understand what other people believe in what they believe before accusing them.

  13. With benefit of hindsight wisdom after reading all comments,we need to refer to “what’d Jesus do/say?”-WWJD,given similar scenario.Need to return to Word of God(Logos) as life’s a matter of relationships n how the indwelt Lord’s Spirit’d enable us to see life in the will n purpose of God n to love others with His Heart(John 17:17)
    Refer Parable of the Sower(Mat 13.18-.23) on the Word sown in ‘types of farm-soil ‘ with God’s wisdom to be wise worldly,not worldly wise.
    It’s natural to be defensive,so fruit of Spirit starts with Love to keep us under wrap,ending in selfcontrol(of tongue,opinion-judging others!)lest we forget,as in some who burnt the ‘bridge of salvation after crossing it!-purely out of selfishness n not to look ‘stupid’ in personal pride over others!..as a sports salesman who had a heated argument with a tennis racket customer, opining n won the argument that Pete Sampras was the best tennis player worldwide,even better than Boris Becker…but lost the sale!
    As in 2Peter1:5, with ‘knowledge’ comes ’selfcontrol’ before ‘perseverance’ with the less knowledgeable, and that comes from endurance inspired by hope that the seed planted would bear fruit glorifying God,convicting n drawing others to faith in God by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by might, nor by power but by His Spirit
    (Zec4:6),i.e. with love, being accomodating and amicable still on good talking diplomatic terms-not irreconcilable n confrontational parting of ways! It’s OK to admit our ignorance if we’re unsure,’to get back to you later’ and must admit God doesn’t need us to justify or defend Him of His existence,the Holy Spirit’d do His work in the hearts,minds n conscience of the Word sown as God had set eternity in the hearts of Man (created in His image)that he might seek Him.(Ecc3:11)
    We should also be flexible as Paul ‘for sake of Gospel ‘’I’ve become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some’.(1Cor9.22.23), not compromising our own faith on God’s Truth or condoning sin…just as at Athens Paul shared on revealing to Greek
    philosophers on Christ Jesus as the ‘unknown god’.
    Hopefully, by the power of the Holy Spirit ,the nonbeliever given time, would know the Truth to set him free from bondage to doubts n untruths for death festered by Satan(John 8:32),for at the end of the day, it’s a spiritual battle for the hearts n minds for the Lord,and God
    at the Cross who had predestined He’d triumph come End Times! Amen

    • Thanks Peledina,Samson n Samuel for your sharing.
      I do agree that there could be occasions when we can forget ourselves in the ‘heat ‘ of discussion and as you said Samuel,the body language seen might betray the sincerity of a harmonious discussion to be mutually respectful n tolerant despite differing in essence.

      I suppose it’s important that we’ve the attitude of discussion as sharing to uncover God’s Truths in wisdom given us to dispel doubts n deception of idolatry,n we need to privately pray beforehand that God’d give us His Word to say n choose words with care lest we offend or be seen to be condescending in attitude towards others’
      beliefs judging them.
      Sharing God’s Truth is not to compete against each other to win an argument…Faith n Salvation are gifts from God,not earned so in humility we need to have that uppermost in mind always,lest we forget! We’re all assured as winners in Christ Jesus at the Cross n Satan is our common enemy destined to lose out big time on Judgement Day.
      No,it’s a privilege n opportunity given us that having found salvation in Christ Jesus,we’d love to share the Good News with those we so love.As we all have the same Creator,all races must be related with us with the same Heavenly Father,n with this rightful attitude towards others, we’d more readily accept one another,patiently enduring…
      glorifying our Lord n our God forever!
      Amen

    • Thanks Peledina,Samson n Samuel for your sharing.
      I do agree that there could be occasions when we can forget ourselves in the ‘heat ‘ of discussion and as you said Samuel,the body language seen might betray the sincerity of a harmonious discussion to be mutually respectful n tolerant despite differing in essence.

      Sharing to uncover God’s Truth is not to compete against each other to win an argument…Faith n Salvation are gifts from God,not earned so in humility we need to have that uppermost in mind always,lest we forget! We’re all assured as winners in Christ Jesus at the Cross n Satan is our common enemy destined to lose out big time on Judgement Day.
      No,it’s a privilege n opportunity given us that having found salvation in Christ Jesus,we’d love to share the Good News with those we so love.As we all have the same Creator,all races must be related with us with the same Heavenly Father,n with this rightful attitude towards others, we’d more readily accept one another,patiently enduring…
      glorifying our Lord n our God forever!
      Amen

      • Interesting how it all goes back to the scripture, James 1:19-20. When we seek to understand, oh what a difference it makes.
        Thank you for sharing these communication tools.

  14. I totally agree, am grateful for this help. Am about to engage in a difficult conversation and this will for sure help where I have failed before by the grace of God. Than you

  15. Very welcome tools for this world that seems to be unraveling and isolated relationally, but lonely.

  16. I am attending a class at my church where we are discussing racial reconciliation. I thought that this article was very timely and related well. We just need to love people well, and take time to get to know them. Then, hopefully we have shown the love of Christ and that will spur them to want to know more.

    • I could not agree more. Love for other people will help us see their point of view even if we do not agree with it

    • Well said

    • This is the essential essence; SHOW people Christ’s love.
      Also helpful to assume the adversary lives in a seperate reality. In this week’s lesson I won’t say much, because my life is so very different from king David’s, by God’s grace. I assume same for others who do not share my opinions/ lifestyle. Good piece and many good comments.

  17. It’s difficult to have a conversation these days. Even the greatest communicator (s) will typically say excuse me and look at their device when it beeps. It’s down hill from there..

  18. Thank you, Susie, for sharing such valuable tools to help empower us to be better disciples for Christ. Not already knowing these exact points, but through prayer and the help of the holy spirit I walked with an angry atheist as she struggled with her broken life. I just kept asking her questions and honored where she was coming from. Rather than my normal preaching to people. And, God showed up!! With Hid love so obvious fir this person. A completely different experience and understanding if how God works in people’s hearts. Thank you so very much.

    • NE – I find it difficult to talk to someone who have an opinion about what’s going on in our country. I do listen to their opinion, and try to value it, even if I don’t agree. But most of my opinions comes from what I have learned through God’s scriptures to handle difficult situations and after that it seems to end the discussion. It pretty well works for me.

  19. Thank you for sharing this. It’s very helpful & clear with step by step approach.

  20. Yes, I believe that when we listen and politely express our faith in God and His love we will be able to share our experiences better. Thank you for sharing this information.

  21. Thank you! This is valuable to know. It all boils down to taking the time to listen so we know where they are coming from – because we can never assume to know their convictions. I wish I had implemented this approach with many people earlier…excited for this series of blog posts!

    • I really appreciate all of the new ways BSF is sharing in how to live out our faith. Thank you. I’ll look forward to this blog.

    • I too agree entirely that this approach is healthy. As a counselor for teenagers I must listen keenly to the other person and respect their conviction so as to be rational in my response. This will prevent conflict

  22. Thank you!

  23. Thank you for sharing this blog and encouraging us to to show love to one another in our conversations. Although we are all wonderfully made by God, we are all unique and different. However, the one thing that we all have in common is we have One Savior and One Lord and in Him each of us is made righteous. What a Mighty God We Serve.

    • Right on time
      Thank you

  24. Thank you for sharing. God bless you and blesses your ministry

  25. Very informative article with multiple insights.

    Thank you for the needed conversations!

    BSF is amazing!

  26. I need samples of conversation starters and examples of appropriate responses.

  27. Three concepts have helped me engage in effective conversations: Listen, Collaborate, and Empower. Good listening entails repeating what was said (I heard you say…). Collaboration means I respect what you said. I may not agree but I respect your view. Empowering removes me from the solution; I’m not required to fix anything, but will ask, “What will you do about the issue? This process lays the foundation for future conversations and the possibility of agreement on Biblical principles–the Gospel.

  28. I had one of these conversations at a half-way house and after I left for Israel learned that it had opened a pathway by the grace and truth illuminating Holy Spirit into the soul of a man who had been hostile to faith. If we don’t listen, we can’t hear the hurt that is behind so many people that causes them to fear God in the wrong kinds of ways. Since I was one of those, it is perhaps easier to participate, but shutting people down because they don’t understand is also not Jesus’ way. God bless you for stirring up the comfortable.

  29. I have discovered a number of persons now active in my life that are so angry about the difference of opinions coming alive in our country. The gulf between us seems so hard to bridge. The major difference I feel now is their anger with no tolerance for others. This leaves me silent often not wanting to anger them more BUT it also weighs heavy on my spirit that I haven’t been true to who Christ made me. Thank you for this article and discussion.

  30. God’s Living Word, can transcend through any kind of heart and when we listen, when we understand were someone is coming from only then will they listen to us and God can place His living word in there life to change, awaken and transform. His Living Word is called the Living Word for a reason, it is alive and can move and change lives and it does everyday. When we listen we are showing a character of God and His heart and it will draw people to His ways not yours but His Ways and that will bring real change. Thank you Dr. Bock for reminding us that it is not about us, our life, our circumstance but about Jesus and our calling and that is to bring the lost to Him so His Word can change there life and heart. I also like that when we are actively listening we are off our electrical devices!!!!

  31. God ultimately is the One who brings light and understanding – so to listen with intent to understand is an excellent means of allowing God to direct the conversation; as well as to prepare the heart of the listeners. His word is a two edge sword so there is something to be understood by both hearers.

  32. This idea of trying to understand another’s viewpoint about their beliefs, as explained by this author, is hog-wash! My experiences are that people believe-what-they-believe-where-they-come-from. Trying to understand another’s belief system only weakens your own beliefs, and could set yourself up for believing what they believe. Don’t go there. Rest on Biblical principles and the interpretations by the Holy Spirit. The authors core teaching in this blog reminds me of New Age thinking, and that is dangerous. Be solid in your core beliefs. Trying to change people, or even understanding them and why they believe the way they do, is dangerous. Share biblical truths and if they argue or wont see these truths then shake the sand off your sandals and move on … you have planted a seed. A Christian does not have a religious or belief conversation, or argument,t with a non-believer, no!, a Christ-centered believer share their faith and what Christ has done in their life, not try to understand why someone believes differently. “the goal is to determine where the other person is coming from in approaching faith” is a dangerous concept (especially for milk-fed Christians) and is not the correct approach.

    • It takes a great deal of humility to truly listen to another person to understand them, and a mark of my pride when I become defensive or want to explain myself instead. Thank you for breaking down the steps to having better difficult conversations – this is very helpful!

    • You have to be willing to listen to the other person. Once they realize you are willing to listen to them, it opens the door for them to listen to you and what you believe.

    • Rick, I appreciate your concern for truth, but respectfully, I think you might be reading a little too much into Dr. Bock’s comments. I think he’s merely helping us with how to set the stage for a real and honest conversation. Ultimately we have to stand firm on the core doctrines of our faith — there’s no argument there — but if we end a conversation before it ever begins how can we speak God’s truth into that person’s life. At the same time, we have to always remind ourselves that we don’t change anyone’s heart. That is solely the work of the Holy Spirit as scripture makes clear. Ideally, we want people to come to our class who need to read and hear God’s Word — people from a variety of denominations for sure, but even more so the unchurched — and the unchurched will without a doubt have ideas and spiritual opinions that will challenge our patience at times.

      I’m part of an evening men’s class and I am surrounded mostly by white, middle-aged, conservative, professionals like myself — a very comfortable group, but are we really just called to be comfortable? Last year my son and his wife adopted an African-American baby. This has changed my life in ways I never saw coming, and since then I have reached out to black brothers in Christ (and to some who are non-Christians) to have discussions about race and to learn as much as a can about the black culture. It has been a wonderful experience and it has opened my eyes to things I never knew before. I’m listening carefully and those on the other side of the discussion really appreciate that someone would take time to see life through their eyes. In our BSF class we are now looking at ways to reach out into the community so that our class eventually looks like that awesome BSF class of Revelation 7.

      • Mark, I agree that ending a conversation, in most cases, may not be the best witness. Listening is important. However, you are missing my point, and Bock said it: “the goal is to determine where the other person is coming from in approaching faith”. That is dangerous … do you see that? I too am in a BSF course and it has white, blacks, Indians, Chinese. I don’t need to adopt a black baby, or associate with another ethic group, to understand that God sees no color, gender or ethnic differences. I will not change my message for whatever person I am sharing my faith. Jesus shared his faith and beliefs across many boundaries, and His message was consistent and His words were consistent, and His love was equal. Adopting a “black baby” and then using that as a doorway, or excuse, to be compelled to reach out to black brothers in attempt to understand their faith is racist … can you see that? God wants us to be like Him: color blind.

        • Rick, I tried to use an analogy that would hopefully help you see my point and the point of the author, but obviously I failed in that attempt. You actually walked right into the culture trap that many of us fall into, which is to say we are color blind. What you will discover when you talk to people about their culture is that they are proud of it, and they want others to recognize that while we are all the same in Christ, we still have cultural differences that distinguish us as wonderfully unique. I think the passage in Revelation 7 that I noted in my previous post says it all. It specifically mentions believers from ‘every nation, tribe, people and language’ standing before Jesus. Everyone there will be there because they put their trust in the Lamb who was slain for our sins. All by believing the one true gospel. And in that everyone WILL be the same, but a lot of us aren’t going to look like everyone else there.

          While we know that God and God alone is sovereign in our salvation, at the same time we are commanded to preach the gospel far and wide. We don’t ‘dumb down’ the message for anyone, but when we take time to know someone’s story and listen carefully just maybe they will also listen carefully to what we have for them in return — the truth.

          And finally, just to clarify, I did not in any way say that I use the adoption of a black baby as a doorway or excuse to be compelled to reach out to black brothers in an attempt to understand their faith. What I said is that having a black grandson has opened my eyes and heart to learn all about another culture — a very proud and misunderstood culture. I don’t know how that could possibly be considered racist. Those I’ve talked with and listened to are very appreciative. I am excited about BSF’s new initiative to reach out to minorities in order to achieve some much-needed diversity in our classes.

        • Awesome responses, the point is we are learning, we are God’s creations, whether it is a Black infant or an older Black male or female. All praises to God. I am thankful that God is opening our hearts and eyes.

          • Thank you Susie for sharing it. It enables me to enhance the quality of conversations with my surrounding, to be a good listener. As Christian, i think , i have to accept the others regardless of the partners’ religion, nationality, colors, social class nor ethnics. God also teach us to not hasten in judging the others as our judgments can come back to us – like what happened to David after Nathan’s report about the rich man and poor man story – Samuel 11-12. Setting table for difficult conversation justify our commitment to God of peace , God of Mercy, God of real Love and God source of JOY.

    • I spoke to a man sitting next to me on a short plane ride. He said he was Hindu so I asked him to tell me some about his religion so I could see the difference between Hindu and Christianity. He explained something about reincarnation and how you had to continually work to achieve heaven. I told him that as Christians we just have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that God raised him from the dead and God accepts us as His. We talked about Jesus’ death in the cross and how He paid the penalty for the sins I committed. He didn’t understand how that would affect me when it was 2000 years ago. I explained that since He was God it covered all sins for all times. We talked about being grateful for what God had done. The plane landed and went our separate ways. There was no coercion or hostility, if anything we might have been called friends. I did not at all feel moved to believe what he believed, on the contrary, the conversation probably strengthened my faith.

    • Rick, thank you for saying what I believe.

    • The Bible is very clear. Every contact we have with another person has been ordained by God. So we should take it very serious, secondly, we know every person we come into contact with is under conviction by the Holy Spirit, John 16:8. The only person of the Holy Trinity missing up to this point is Jesus Christ who is residing in us. It is not for us to determine what a person should or should not be told, it is our mission to bring them into a meaningful conversion with Jesus Christ. Get out of the way and let the love of Jesus control your tongue and have a genuine “loving” conversion with an individual who if not for the grace of God could be any one of us. Know they have value, God loves the world, and just get to know them by being possibly the first person in a long time that has taken an interest in them. Let the Holy Spirit do His work and you will be amazed at what comes out of the conversation.
      I once had the pleasure of watching a 1st Lieutenant in the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army accept Christ on a flight from Beijing to Nanning ( about 3 1/2 hrs. ). Our conversation began with my asking ” Do you speak English”, he replied yes. During our small talk he expressed great respect for Marine Corps tattoo on my right forearm, and later asked me if I was a professor, I replied, “no I am a student”. He laughed and asked what I studied, and I told him the bible. From then on I observed as the Holy Spirit took “complete control” of both our conversations, calming my fears of prison time, opening his heart to his true condition, and when we hit Nanning, he was a Christian.
      All of this began because God led me to speak to the man with the love of Jesus Christ for him. I guess I’m trying too say we need to focus on living in humble obedience to our God as we grow in Christ, and let Christ speak to the people God brings to us. Love them enough to get to know them.

    • Very insightful and encouraging on listening without being judgemental and even how to engage. Can’t wait to share. Be blessed

  33. Lindaklaasen15@gmail.com
    The blog reminds me of the scripture passage in JAMES. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to be come angry….” Thx for the blog.

  34. Thank you! Looking forward to the next session. In BSF conversational discussion of our questions has been great. As a GL I am aware of how important it is to stay with the Bible scripture and not add the opinion of another source. We depend on the Holy Spirit to help us listen and share in our conversations.

  35. Susie/Dr. Bock
    This is my prayer for this year, to listen and get understanding. First, listening with clarity as the Holy Spirit leads through prayer and His Word. Second, as I communicate with a non believer or a believer. They both deserve the same respect. Thank You

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