You don’t have to agree with each other to listen


I watched an episode of a television show the other night where God played a character on screen. Immediately, I knew I probably wasn’t going to agree with it. And I was right. God was portrayed as an absentee parent who had given up on His children and needed a pep talk, basically.

Needless to say, it made me pretty angry. But I kept watching. And the more I watched, the sadder I became. Because is that how people really see God? Is that the lie people have bought about Him? What a hopeless existence if our Creator gives up on us, if our God struggles with the same things we struggle with.

I watched the whole episode, and I disagreed with everything. But I finished it, and I gained some really interesting insight into how the writers of the show see God. And it gave me the opportunity to really question what I believe and why I believe it.

Yet last week I encountered someone who wouldn’t even finish my novel because he disagreed with something I had written. Which is perfectly fine. People are free to like or dislike what I write, but how can you give an honest review about a story without actually reading it?

Christians are expected to lay down and hang our heads. Oh, no! Our beliefs made someone angry! Alas! But what about when people of other faiths make a Christian angry? How is a Christian supposed to react when that happens?

Ask the culture, and they’ll say we’re too sensitive. Aren’t you supposed to show grace and forgive and let it go? Ask a Christian, and they’ll tell you that you shouldn’t have been reading/watching it anyway.

So which is it? Let it go or bury your head in the sand?

I say neither.

Instead, seek to understand it.

I love Proverbs because it’s so full of good advice, and Proverbs 18:2 is a classic example. “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.

Hatred never solves disagreements, and insults rarely make you sound smarter.Too many times we stop reading a story or stop watching a show because we disagree with it. But stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and you can’t always judge the end by the way the story begins. How can you understand a story before you finish it? How can you even know you’ll disagree with it if you don’t even know what happens in the end?

It’s a very personal thing. We all have to make our decision about where (and how) we’re going to stand. And if a book or movie or TV show contains things that you believe will damage you, you should definitely stop. But that line is different for every person.

People really hate Christians now. Openly. That’s new in my lifetime. And, yes, I’m generalizing. Because I have many many friends who don’t believe the same way I do, and I love them, and they love me. But others decide that I’m an idiot without even knowing me. Others decide to hate me and they haven’t even spoken to me.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Since when do we have to agree with each other to be kind to each other?[/su_pullquote]

Since when do we have to agree with each other to be kind to each other, to be civil with each other? I know we get passionate about what we believe, but hatred never solves disagreements. And insults rarely make you sound smarter.

I know where I stand. I stand with Jesus Christ. He is my everything, and the Bible is His Word that tells me how to live. But that’s my choice. That’s my life.

You can stand wherever you want. It’s your choice, and I respect that whole-heartedly. You can write what you want. You can tell whatever story you want to tell. You can believe whatever you want to believe, and I won’t tune out. I won’t shut the TV off or stop reading your book or close my ears to your voice. It matters to you, so it matters to me. I may disagree with you, but I’ll still listen.

And all I ask for in return is the same consideration.

Ratty old cardinal ornament on my old tree at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The cardinal is a lie

I get really put out at people sometimes. Maybe I’m impatient. Maybe I expect too much. I don’t know, but few things can irritate me more than people. And it doesn’t have to be any particular people; just people. There are bad driver people. There are selfish people. There are loud people and rude people and church people and the list can go on and on and on, and they all can irritate the fire out of me. But I get the most angry–almost to the point of saying and doing things I would regret–around foolish people.

We all know foolish people. And I’m certainly not saying that I’m the sharpest knife in the drawer. Believe me, I’ve done some pretty stupid things in my life, but I have tried my best to never be in the people group the Bible calls fools. I’m not making it up; it’s all over the Bible, characteristics of fools, what they sound like, what they dress like, how they handle stress, how they behave. Read Proverbs, and you’ll find the majority of verses about being a fool, like today’s verse.

Ratty old cardinal ornament on my old tree at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Ratty old cardinal ornament on my old tree at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 18:2.

Fools have no interest in understanding;
they only want to air their own opinions.

What if I told you I chose the photo for this post because it’s a real cardinal in a real pine tree? Well, you’d be completely within your rights to correct me. One, it’s a fake cardinal, a Christmas tree ornament. Two, it’s a fake pine tree. How did you come to that conclusion? You thought about it. Good grief, you looked at it. The paint is coming off the bird’s beak, it’s missing a leg, its feathers are falling off, the tree has lights in it, and the pine needles look like they’re made of fabric. Because they are.

But what if I’ve convinced myself it’s real? What if I’m not interested in hearing what you have to say? What if I only care about what I think the photo means?

See what I’m saying? A fool rejects truth and substitutes their own reality in its place, whether it’s true in any sense or not. And they don’t really care how it hurts them or the people around them.

That’s a silly example but have you ever tried to argue with a person like that? Have you ever tried to reason with a person like that? It’s exhausting. They refuse to listen, and you end the argument feeling bluer and more disheartened than you were when you started.

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted about this before, and I want to make sure that I communicate this as kindly as possible. I can’t see people’s hearts. I don’t know their motivation. That is between them and God, and I have no right to make a judgment call about it. But I can make my own judgment about someone’s behavior, and I can change how I react to them.

Christmas is a time when all sorts of people who don’t ever see each other spend time together. Extended amounts of time. In small cramped rooms. The inevitable conflict will always erupt, sometimes contained, sometimes not. Welcome to family holidays, right?

I guess this is weighing on me today because I always seem to encounter foolish people when I really need to be focusing on accomplishing something. And I spend so much time trying to straighten them out or worrying about what I’ve said to them or that I did something wrong that I lose the chance to do something worthwhile. And please don’t ever think I’m condoning abandoning people. God doesn’t do that; so we shouldn’t either.

But some people–and you know exactly the kind I’m talking about–don’t want to be helped. They don’t want to change. They want you to be as disruptive and chaotic as they are, and if they can bring you down to where they are, they’ll feel better about themselves.

Don’t let them. You have a choice.

The truth about foolish people is that there’s nothing you can do for them. A true fool is beyond your help. Curing a true fool of his or her foolishness takes Divine Intervention. Love them, yes. Pray for them, yes. But don’t try to fix them. You can’t fix yourself.

Do what you need to do. Speak truth in love. Don’t let them drag you into their conflicts. Keep pressing forward, and keep paying attention. Otherwise someday, when someone tells you a fake cardinal in a fake tree is real, you’ll go along with it. Then who’s the fool?