Friday, December 12, 2008

Learning to Converse Again

One of the lost arts in the last 25 years has been the art of talking, even arguing, with those with whom one disagrees in civil conversation. It is possible to love those with whom one strongly disagrees, contrary to the evidence of our current institutional life.
Civil conversation is, like all the great arts of life, learned through modeling and practice more than through formal instruction. That is why the lack of conversational modeling and practice are the accelerant to all the destructive forces in church and society.
At Oak Cliff, it is precisely this modeling continued through the generations that has enabled us to embrace a mission of racial reconciliation in Christ. Some lessons I have had reinforced here:
  • We have two ears, and one mouth. To be used effectively, they must be used proportionately. Listen twice as much as you speak (hard for pastors).
  • We must assume that everyone belongs at the table-- it is God's job to judge, and none of us deserve the invitation we have received from Christ to belong.
  • Our identity in Christ can only be embraced if we let go of all lesser identities--even (especially) the good and cherished ones.
  • We are each created, saved, and called individually-- we have to come to know each other the same way.
  • All forms of group judgment are ultimately lazy ways out of the hard work of loving. Hard work produces a greater reward.
  • The hard work of loving is impossible without the hard work of praying, studying the Word, and living in total obedience to what our study reveals to us.

Rebuilding a civil society at this stage is going to be a long haul. I probably won't live to see it, but I will spend my life to build it in the hope that Christ's Church can grow vibrant and strong again in the public square in America.

1 comment:

  1. As a trained Stephen minister, I have been trained to listen. Yet, often times, it is easier said than done. In Companions in Christ class we are instructed to avoid cross talking. Most of the time we succeed, but there are times that we do not. I have been blessed to have a pastor who is a GREAT listener.It was because he is that he was able to help me see that Jesus would pull me up out of the pit of despair if only I would lift up my hand to Him!