How to talk about tough topics
Matthew 18 talks about first going to your brother or sister, and then bringing another person. There’s a process that involves first going to that person.
One passage talks about speaking with grace, our speech seasoned with salt. The way that we ask questions, the way that we talk to one another, in some ways determines how people receive it and how they respond. [Colossians 4:6]
When President Sawatsky first arrived on campus, he shared that Romans 12 was his life scripture. I remember in this passage reading, “be a living sacrifice,” “do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,” “each one of us is in one body with many members,” “honor one another above yourselves”—the passage is rich with decorum for the way we as believers should function.
Sometimes we get the idea that we have to defend God. Christians can get strident in their positions because they feel that they’re somehow defending God or defending the Bible. And I’m not sure that God needs us to do that. So . . . I’m saying relax a little bit.
I would say: don’t be afraid; don’t let fear prevent you from disagreeing. I think that often times we just don’t have good models for how to disagree civilly. So find someone who is a good model and talk with them or watch them and see how disagreements can be handled in a healthy way.
We can remember that none of us has a corner on the truth, that we’re all imperfect. Differences are to be expected.
I really think we need to take the risks to discuss tough issues. It takes mature people to deal with tough issues, but it really helps to build our character. When we follow the process through—listening to people we don’t agree with, thinking things through and researching the issues, and then coming back to the table—it’s hard to go through that process without some sense of personal, as well as intellectual, maybe even spiritual growth.
What I say might sound a little too simplistic, but within our own Christian community, I would just like to see us extending the benefit of the doubt to one another. I find that often wrong motives are assigned so quickly, when a simple conversation may clarify the issue. Ask sincere questions of one another: Why did the College choose to do this? Why did you select this lecturer? Those kinds of approaches can be door openers to relationships and better understanding.
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