I started listening to people who were different than I was.[i]
Think about that statement for a minute. How often do we really listen to people who are different than we are? People who think differently; People who hold differing opinions or theological positions. Do we truly listen to them or do we simply—in our minds—put our fingers in our ears and go “la, la, la, la, la.”
I would suggest, if we’re not willing to listen to people who are different than we are, then we will not be able to listen to the biblical text correctly.
As I’ve mentioned before, often times we come to the Bible expecting it to say what we already believe is true. When it doesn’t, we diligently work to explain why it doesn’t so that we can justify our beliefs.
Many years ago, when in college, I attended a class where the professor said something that was totally different from what I had been taught by my pastor and very different from what I knew the Bible said. I responded immediately. I interrupted his lecture and basically laid down the challenge. “You can’t say that. It’s not true.” When the professor and I talked after class, I disguised my personal conflict as wanting to be a defender of those other poor college kids who would certainly be in peril of losing their faith if they believed what he was teaching. But the real issue was my own faith! He had hit it head on with something that seemed more than plausible when reading the biblical text, but was totally against what I had been taught.
It was at that moment that I began to do some serious thinking. Were my beliefs, my beliefs because I understood it to be what the Bible teaches? Or were my beliefs really someone else’s beliefs that I had adopted hoping it was what the Bible teaches? There’s a huge difference.
Letting the Bible speak on its own terms can be a challenge. It can be hard. We are influenced from several directions by Sunday school teachers, preachers, professors, and commentary writers who say, “This is what the Bible says.” But when we begin reading the text with our eyes open and mind engaged there will be those times when we say, “Wait, that’s not what the text says.”
That doesn’t mean we don’t listen to what they say, it simply means we allow ourselves the privilege to think differently. Not different as in strange and out in left field with our understanding of the text. But different in that we let the text speak on its own terms and then engage in conversation to find out why there are differences.
Listening is good. Listening to the biblical text is a priority. Listening to God’s spirit as it guides us into truth is essential. Listening to those who are different—with different opinions or beliefs is also important. That’s how we learn.
Perhaps they will give us the same courtesy.
[i] Quote by Lindsey Trozzo in this blog post;