How well are you able to listen to people who have views strongly different from your own? Recently, while reading a Time Magazine political article, I happened upon a study about being able to consider points of view that are contrary to what a person deeply believes.
[This article was written recently by my friend Richard Elfers for consideration within his church and is included here for our benefit as well.]
The study noted that individuals would not listen to information pointing out their favorite candidate’s faults. They were only able to hear those faults when the researchers first had them think about a time in their own lives where they stuck to their values in spite of opposition. Then, and only then would they listen to valid criticism.
I considered the results of that study in the light of Christianity. I have known Christians who refuse to accept information that differs from what they believe. It was not that the information was wrong; it was just that it differed from their strongly held views.
Rather than being like the “noble Bereans” who searched the Scriptures daily to see whether the teachings of Paul and Barnabas were true (Acts 17:5-10), we often reject opposing views out of hand because to listen to these differing ideas would mean a reexamination of other aspects of our lives. That is a step too far for us. Based upon the article in Time, we don’t listen because we’re not secure enough in our own views to be able to cope with information contrary to what we believe.
We are Christians, and because of that we have the security that comes from knowing we have been given the Holy Spirit, and that God “has our back” when we go through difficult times and encounter uncomfortable truths.
In Scripture we see that God listened to humans who did not agree with him. He listened to Abraham regarding whether he would save Sodom and Gomorrah or destroy them (Genesis 18:16 ff). Abraham did some pretty serious horse-trading with God by trying to save the cities because his nephew Lot, and his family lived in Sodom. He started by asking God whether he would save Sodom if 50 righteous people lived there and worked his way down to 10. God was very patient with him and allowed him to negotiate.
A second example of God listening was when he told Moses he was going to destroy Israel in the wilderness after the golden calf fiasco and replace them with the descendants of Moses. Moses pleaded for his people by using rational arguments to dissuade him. God listened and spared Israel (Genesis 32: 11 ff).
If the Lord, “who changes not”, can change his mind after logical arguments are presented to him, shouldn’t we Christians do the same? Remember, the God who listened to Abraham and Moses is the same God who died for you and me on the cross. God gives us his spirit that enables us to be humble and open to differing views if Scripture supports them. The Bereans are our righteous examples.
May we all be filled with the mind of Christ to have that level of security!