Sunday, June 26, 2011

From Belligerent to Harmonious

I love arguments. It's one way I learn. If conflict-avoiding people walk away from the discussion, I don't learn anything. I need people to be engaged and give me their thoughts, including opinions and facts. I need people to listen to mine. They might convince me to change what I think or I might convince them. However, if there's no engagement than there can be no change.

But I have been wrong at times being belligerent, nearly militant, about my ideas. Even when I've been right, I've been wrong!

Recently at a group meeting, several people were very, very passionate about their position that homosexuality was wrong and it was not right that there should be gay pride parades this weekend. Pride and lust are wrong. Sinners are not going to enter heaven, they said. There seemed to be hostility towards the events occurring in various cities.

And then I read, "Do not repay evil with evil, or insult with insult but with blessing, because to this you were called..." (1 Peter 3.9--emphasis mine). A few sentences later, Peter writes this: "Always be prepared to given an answer for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience..." (vv. 15-16a).

We know that at times we've been wrong (i.e. we've sinned) and so with humility we should welcome the engagement into the discussion of people who think differently. We need to show respect for their thoughts--facts and opinions--without having to agree and respectfully stating our thoughts without making it personal. Making it personal--that the other person is stupid, unreasonable, hysterical--is an insult. Even if they make it personal, we should refrain. Stick to the issue and facts. Acknowledge that opinions have some reasonable basis to it--from a set of beliefs, assumptions, premises or traditions.

Next time, I find myself in an argument, I need to remember this: live in harmony, be sympathetic, express my beliefs and information with gentleness and respect...even with those I dislike. For me, it's pedophiles and rapists. Others would include abortionists and those of the LGBT community. My beliefs would tell me there are no exceptions to the rule of "repay an insult with a blessing" and explain yourself with "gentleness and respect". It would be tough, but I've got to stop being belligerent and instead be harmonious.

Unless there's an immediate threat to someone's safety. Then I might turn into Peter from the old days, before he wrote this letter: the guy who argued, thundered and whipped out a sword in a garden after being awoken from sleep.

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