When it comes to how we interact with other people, from a Biblical standpoint, it’s amazing how often we do it in backwards order.
Yes, there’s actually an order about how we should be interacting with each other, particularly when it comes to sensitive matters. The first step is seeking to understand, which means Christians should listen first, and get angry later (if at all). That’s the message my pastor delivered recently.
James 1:19-20 lays out the roadmap for us quite succinctly:
You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.
Unfortunately, we often tend to go in reverse order: we get angry first, we give someone a “piece of our mind” second, and as for listening, if we do it at all, we use listening only as a fuel for the anger we’ve already allowed in.
We certainly aren’t listening to understand: we’re listening to prepare our next response.
Our next anger-fueled response.
Our political parties are a perfect example of this, and their operation in such matters perfectly explains why so little gets done in Washington, DC, and in the various statehouses across the country: we’re so focused on preparing the response for our political opponents that we often miss what should be the obvious point: why on earth they don’t already agree with us.
Christians are far too quick these days to behave in exactly the same way.
Christians aren’t the only ones, of course. I recently had a Twitter interaction with an atheist on Twitter. The responses I received felt scripted, because they were. It was blatantly clear that this particular person had been down this road before, having remembered the talking points.
He tweeted by rote, attempting to shoot down my response while strategically preparing for what he assumed my likely follow-up would be.
He never bothered to ask why I felt the way I felt about the point I was making, whatever it was. He never bothered to try to understand my point of view. He wanted to win an argument.
He was already angry. He clearly wasn’t angry with me, since he didn’t know me, had likely never heard of me, and wasn’t in a conversation with me when he saw me tweet something that he decided to latch onto for the purpose of attempting to pick a fight.
While he clearly sees himself as mentally superior to believers, who he would likely accuse of “believing in fairy tales” or any of the other myriad insults the more outspoken among non-believers always seem eager to hurl, he’s absolutely no better than the “Bible-thumpers” who likewise latch onto something for the purpose of winning the argument.
The person on the “other side” doesn’t enter into the equation.
And that little problem is precisely what keeps so many people from being able to get along at all: no one is thinking about the other person; they’re only thinking about how to win an argument.
Proverbs 17:27 reminds us:
“The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint,
and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.”
Wise words if you ask me.