We must convince the world!! Oh wait we already have. We believers, we followers of that man, Jesus, we have convinced the world. I would simply submit that we have convinced them of the wrong thing. While I am certain that a spiritual battle rages against our conversations, I think far too often we are our own worst enemy. We convince the world of all the wrong things. And shocker of shockers, I would submit again, it is because we have wrong conversations far too often.
Do we agree more or disagree more? It depends on what level we have our conversations. You see all communication is not created equal. And all topics are not created equal.
Once again to help us, I’d like to use marriage as a metaphor. It strikes me this metaphor is perfectly reasonable to help address the Bride, right?
When a couple communicates, there are always layers to every conversation. The first and most important distinction is to understand the difference between the exchange of information, and the communication about the relationship. The conversation is always about the relationship, even if the topic is changing tires. You see what you talk about is simply a topic. How you talk to each other is always about the relationship. You can talk about any topic in a way that communicates mutuality and love, and you can talk about any topic in a way that communicates apathy or anger. Those messages are all in the way you communicate. Tone, posture, facial expressions, the subtleties of words. These all convey what is in your heart toward another. When you say, “I love you”, while reading the newspaper, or staring at your phone, you may not actually be conveying that you love someone. When you say, “I’m NOT angry” through clenched teeth and terse breaths, you have just conveyed the very opposite of the words you chose. We can have wrong conversations as believers when we do not recognize that the way we communicate is our message, far more than what we communicate.
The other issue is the investment and energy we give to certain topics. This answers a simple yet deeply significant question. Are we fighting for our marriage, or are we fighting for our way. One will build unity, the other will destroy it. If we will give great time and energy to the topic of what we want the other to do or not do, we can end up having huge fights over tiny topics.
It’s a good thing the church never does this. (#sarcasm)
Let me build for you quickly three levels of conversation, beginning with the center of the target and then moving outward.
I. Jesus Died to Restore our Relationship to God as Source, and thereby set us Free:
Central to our faith and therefore to our lives is this simple yet complex idea that God became flesh and instituted a massive opportunity for personal and global transformation. My observation over the years is that we, the church, are significantly confused about this most important issue. As a result, I spend a great deal of my time, speaking and writing, pulling us back to a powerful and practical understanding of this misunderstood anchor for our beliefs. My experience and observation is that the church is in a significant identity crisis, and individual believers struggle needlessly because this anchor is not in place. When the most important issue of our faith is clouded by confusion, we are prone then, to invest our energies and conversations in other areas, like the following two, important but lesser layers.
II. The Church must Wrestle with Doctrinal Issues to Steward the kind of Truth that sets us Free
By, “Doctrinal Issues” I mean laying down an agreed upon framework for how we understand God’s description of reality, and how we can relate to it. This is important. Very important. But not as important as the first layer. We can step into right relationship with God, while still being wrong about significant issues of God’s definition of reality. In fact that is always the case. We always begin right relationship with Him, while still carrying wrong ideas about reality. Just like we can enter into marriage without really understanding the opposite sex. It doesn’t make us not married, it simply causes us difficulties along the way. It is important to wrestle through issues of doctrine. But not as important as really coming to a place of understanding and receiving the transforming life of Jesus. Often we fight for these things as though they are the foundation, and then we end up fighting for our way, instead of fighting for our unity. When we grasp the first issue, new life in Christ, thoroughly, every other conversation begins with the assumption that we are talking to allies, not enemies.
III. We must all figure out personally and then corporately how to live out these first two level in practice:
And then of course we must all figure out how to live out the beliefs that we settle on in some sort of daily way, from lifestyle, to relational practices, to forms of worship, and standards for life. When we are confused about the first two levels, we will battle at this level as if we are fighting for the very foundations of our faith. When we do this, the way we communicate becomes our message, we battle one another and fight for having our way, instead of for having relationship.
If we invest our time and energy in level one, a deep and potent understanding of life in Christ, then level two will take on a civil discourse, like two chefs discussing how to work together in a kitchen. Settle these issues, and our ability to live together amidst the vast differences in style and life choices suddenly becomes a friendly conversation about the most amazing thing that all of us share.
Jesus died to save me from myself.
Let’s have those conversations.