We Christians preach love for everyone yet our actions don't show that love. We are all in one of the opposing camps. If people disagree with us we trot out one of our favorite scriptures. One that fits our position. No matter that we've taken it out of context so it fits our position at the time. We refuse to listen to opposing viewpoints so the conversations never start.
The time is now to have those crucial conversations, but in order to have meaningful conversations we need to prepare ourselves and our spirits.
Proverbs 12:18 MSG Rash language cuts and maims, but there is healing in the words of the wise.
The following are some things we should consider as we Christians lead in having the conversations that we must have if we are ever going to obey and keep the law of Christ.
Matthew 22:34-40 NIV Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Consider Your Motives
The first thing to do is to "get your motives right.”
The stress of a tough conversation has a way of surfacing selfish motives even more than usual. Our first step should be to reset our motives. Ask yourself “What do I really want?” What do I want for me? For the other person? For the relationship? “What does God want?”
Colossians 3:2 NIV Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
When we set aside our selfish motives, and instead focus on the right motives, our conversations become more objective and fruitful.
Check Your Emotions
"Get your emotions right.”
It’s easy to tell ourselves a story about a difficult situation that may or may not be true, stirring up unhealthy emotions. Many people absolve themselves of any responsibility for a problem or bring other unhealthy emotions to the conversation.
1 John 1:8 NIV Ask yourself, “What am I pretending not to know about my role in this?”
Before having a difficult conversation, assure that you own your part and that your emotions are rational.
Know the Facts
"Gather the facts."
Difficult conversations come with opposing views. You may have a history and feelings that shape your conclusions, while the other party has theirs.
In fairness to all, do your research and gather facts. Don’t build your arguments around assumptions or feelings. Too many people come into difficult conversations without having any idea what they did wrong, due to a lack of facts being presented.
Proverbs 14:5 MSG A true witness never lies; a false witness makes a business of it.
Gathering facts is the best way to overcome lies. Your tough conversations should be based on facts, not lies or emotions.
Listen with Interest
Make a point of listening to the other person's side of the story. You may discover that your facts are wrong.
Proverbs 1:5 ESV Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,
Before you complete a crucial conversation, be curious and humble enough to pursue all the facts.
Now's Time To Have Those Tough Conversations
It is easy for us to sit back and say that this is “not the time” to have a discussion about race or or social justice, mask or no mask, open schools or distance learning, same sex marriage or no same sex marriage, abortions or no abortions. That attitude will keep us from starting those meaningful conversations. This is the perfect time to have those conversations, as a path to better understanding those who live far different experiences than we have ever lived.
The Church can't avoid these hard conversations in the name of peace and unity among believers. What kind of unity have we achieved if it comes at the expense of taking on the challenges of our society? Can we claim any type of prophetic voice in the world if we avoid the hard conversations for the sake of ourselves?
If peace must come at the expense of sober judgment that can create change in our own collective life together, then we lose the ability to be a voice for goodness and justice anywhere else.
Let's start those conversations that force us to look more deeply at the root of the problem — and lead us to confess and repent when we find those roots growing around our own hearts.