There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. –1 Corinthians 12-13
(this story will be updated in a few minutes – Rebekah needs to tell it herself – it’s a “teaser” for her sermon Sunday)…
A number of years ago – a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (Florida) – my wife was in a series of conversations with an individual who held views in strong opposition to some of the ministry initiatives that were leading our church into a season that became defined by life and growth. Rebekah listened respectfully (and repeatedly), as they talked about it; but she did not agree with all of his conclusions.
Eventually the man complained that, “You’re just not a very good listener!”
His definition of “listening” was “You agree with me”! But that’s not what good listening is. Good listening involves paying attention, being respectful, asking questions for clarification, and repeating back the substance of what we hear so the speaker knows the message has been received and understood.
Dialogue means an exchange where both parties practice “good listening”, and where conversation is generated that has the potential to increase mutual understanding.
The individual in the above story was only interested in his own opinion, and his idea of listening was, essentially, “shut up, agree with me, then do as I say.”
Real community requires dialogue:
In 2020, this time of COVID-19 and physical distancing, I believe people are struggling to find community; but we will never find it if we are not willing to listen to one another. Community is what we were created for. We were specifically designed (imagined, created, born into existence) for the purpose of finding and exploring relationship. Relationship with one another and relationship with the Creator.
Consequently what we are losing touch with is a huge part of our essential humanity, the core of who we are. So we make every effort to find it.
Unfortunately there is a problem with the virtual world we spend so much time in looking for that connection. If we are not aware and careful we become reduced to its fundamental binary equation, zeros and ones. Our “community” becomes either like-minded (you agree with me without question) or oppositional (I am right and you are wrong).
We do not have to become binary!
But we do not have to become stuck there, and Wednesday I had two powerful experiences that demonstrated why we must do everything in our power to invest ourselves in non-binary community (good news: it can be achieved on-line). We must do this because without it we are essentially lost.
- The first tested the limits of social distancing in this time of coronavirus. It was the funeral service for our friend Polly (you can read more in “Flowers for Polly”). It was not just a memorial but a worship experience, where people of all backgrounds found themselves together because their love for Polly, and for God. This recognition of our relationship to God not only unites us but invites us to respect the image of the Creator in one another. There is no “me and my agenda” in worship, only “us” and our common awareness of love and gratitude.
The second was my midweek men’s group. A zoom room full with intelligent, creative, faith-filled, generous-hearted individuals with as many opinions and points of view as faces on my screen. It is an inconvenient way to meet, the technology can be frustrating at times, and some guys spend much of the time patiently waiting to get a word in. Yet these men are committed and faithful participants. They choose to show up, they listen in all the right ways, they learn from each other, and everyone benefits from the powerful choice to be in community.
I’ve reached my word limit for the day. But you get the idea. We were created for and are constantly called into community.
Exactly because it is not easy right now we absolutely must go above and beyond to listen respectfully, to dialogue deliberately, and to embrace diversity.
We were not made to be in lockstep with one-another – but we were made to live together in peace.
In love, and because of love – DEREK