A few weeks ago I began having rather joyful conversation with a relative about Christianity. It did not take long for the words to become combative on both sides, and argumentative to say the least. I could feel my emotions rise while I defended the “correct” way of Christianity. We were discussing the definition of a Christian, what is dogma, the authority church has in our lives, etc.
I went to bed disgruntled and angry with myself. After months of practicing listening skills and answering questions with questions, I had completely failed to listen. The next morning was Sunday morning church, and during the service I was able to grasp a discernment, probably from God, about the previous evening. I realized that we had argued for two hours about two different things. We were not even discussing the same issues because we had not agreed on the definitions of the terms we were using. We had wasted two hours, or had we?
As soon as possible I shared this discernment with my relative, and the laughter which followed healed us both. The humility was not embarrassing, but cleansing. We had tried to knock each other down, but now we were redeemed and sanctified by helping each other back up.
This realization reminded me of 40,000 known and recorded Christian denominations, the 40,000 different ways that the Bible is interpreted. I believe in truth, and I believe more in the idea of incomplete and complete instead of correct and incorrect. I wonder how many of our denominations are actually a misunderstanding of terminology. This happened many times during the first thousand years of Christianity and the interesting story is told in the form of seven ecumenical councils, discussing things such as person-hood, one’s nature, and a human will.
Even today there are encouraging discussions happening between bodies of Christians who probably misunderstood each other hundreds of years ago. Winning arguments does not win Christians. I believe that we were biologically designed to be able to close our mouths but not our ears. Even when speaking we should be listening. I am reminded that God is always listening, and I now believe that he asks the same of us. The solution to all of these divisions might be becoming the best listener in the room.
Question: How many arguments have you had which turned out to be a waste?