Faces on Faith: Conciliation
(Editor’s note: All quotations are from the New Living Translation of the Bible.)
Peacemakers are an endangered species in our culture of verbal attacks and marginalization. It is difficult to live in harmony when our emotions are being fueled by hateful generalizations and disenfranchisements. When there is conflict in the air, people become defensive of their positions and intolerant of any who disagree. And often we dismiss people without any sense of responsibility to listen to what they are saying, and with no attempt to build a relationship. “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2)
Some of us are much more devoted to talking than to listening. Scripture warns us, “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” (Proverbs 18:13)
We must learn to listen, to hear the story, to hear the heart, to hear the despair and frustration and guilt and depression before we make value judgments.
When people are parading and demonstrating and picketing, we seldom hear anyone discussing the issues. We only hear two parties throwing accusations. Jesus Himself showed a degree of openness, a willingness to listen, to really understand. Let’s learn to say, “I’m going to listen to what you say. I’m going to try to understand your view. I’m going to ask questions. I value you as a person, even if our positions are incompatible.”
Before we lash out with our judgmental responses let’s develop the ability to make friends and discover why others think and act as they do. This shows that we really care about them even though their behavior or speech or appearance may not be our preference. Relating empathetically is learning the skill of separating the behavior of others from their value as a person. To listen, we must ask open-ended questions, and stop talking.
Be willing to share convictions, but do so with gentleness rather than scorn.
“Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.” (Proverbs 12:18). Conciliation does not happen with closed people who are unwilling to show compassion and concern. We must learn to open ourselves to those who fervently disagree with us, rather than to shut them out and cut them off, isolating ourselves from them.
Let’s commit ourselves to adopt and promote a conciliatory spirit whenever we find ourselves in a volatile situation.
The Rev. Dr. Stephen LeBar is the interim senior pastor at the Sanibel Community Church.