In a recent conversation with someone, they said something along the lines of this to me: “it is nice that you are not so opinionated anymore, and that some of your views have changed.” – I understood what they were getting at (and I appreciated their comment), but…I am actually just as opinionated as ever, and very few of my views have changed.
What has changed (slowly over the last few years) is my ability to put myself in another’s shoes…to step back and see where other people are coming from…and thus treat them with a little more respect as a result. This can be a very hard thing to do. It took me awhile to reach this point – and I am indeed still growing in this area. I still have very precise views, but I’ve come to realize that life is complicated and things are not always as cut and dry as we tend to think, and a little charity and grace can go a long way. This quote might explain:
Arrogance doesn’t come from having convictions about the truth; it comes from having the wrong convictions about how to treat people who don’t share it with you. Humility doesn’t come from not having any convictions; it comes from having the right convictions about the importance of gentleness and respect [see 1 Pet. 3:15-16]. – J. Budziszewski
In the past…I think my convictions, unfortunately, often came across as arrogant or condescending toward those with differing views. I certainly have not “arrived” and am still making progress in this area, but I have come a long way.
In some recent material I have been reading for a class on Christian education, the importance of admitting our predispositions has been emphasized. Here is a quote that I thought summed it up well:
“No one is neutral, and one of the most difficult and elusive activities of human existence is to come to grips with our personal predispositions. It might be said that it is impossible even to begin to arrive at correct perspectives of the world until people realize the color of the glasses they are wearing. Once individuals become aware of the effect of their personal predispositions, they need to take this information into account in both interpretation and communication.” – George Knight
I bolded that middle sentence because I think it is so critical! You will not be able to make a “correct” decision about anything until you can step back and consider the various views on an issue, and admit to the subjective perspective that you come to the table with. Note: this is NOT about being wishy-washy or straddling the fence or taking a relative view of truth, but if you can’t admit to your own predispositions, your viewpoint is going to be…incomplete, narrow, arrogant, uncharitable, weak…and even at risk of falling apart.
When we only see things from our own narrow perspective, we open ourselves up to failure or defeat. We can learn from the critique of those on the other side of the fence. Every view point has its own strengths and weaknesses. A weakness is an area where we are prone to go wrong. We need to be able to admit to the weaknesses of our view, and realize these are areas we need to be cautious about. We can always learn things from those with an opposing view!
Calvinists can learn from Arminians, Complementarians from Egalitarians, Charismatics from Cessationists, Protestants from Catholics….and even Republicans from Democrats, and Christians from agnostics/atheists. (and vice-versa to all those as well.)
These thoughts come to my mind because of a variety of recent experiences I have had. Here is one: In a recent online setting, there was an article followed by debate about an issue that is controversial with Christians. The author of the article out-rightly stated that her view was “the historic, orthodox, biblical view.” – So, in other words, if you don’t have her view, then you are: non-historic, non-orthodox, and non-biblical! This is…insulting, uncharitable, and unfair. I have studied both sides of the issue in question…and Christians on both sides have a high view of Scripture, with their views based solidly on the Word of God. Respected, educated, solid, orthodox, biblical, “born-again” evangelicals have come to different conclusions on this issue. It is flippant and dismissive to simply say or imply that “if you don’t believe like me, you are…non-biblical, or uneducated, or refusing to face the facts, or drifting from orthodoxy (or whatever).”
I do want to emphasize that the above issue was not a core doctrinal issue of the Christian faith. It was a side issue, and we need to learn to be more charitable with side issues. Like the well-known quote says:
“In essentials, unity;
in doubtful matters, liberty;
in all things, charity.”
And to get back to the original focus of the post…Take off your glasses or at least admit that you are wearing them. It is a wonderful view that brings so much freedom.