How a Christian Worldview Can Make You a Better Listener
- Monday, August 29, 2011
- Where did I come from? (How did humans get here?)
- What went wrong? (Why does evil and suffering exist?)
- What is the solution? (How do we fix evil and suffering?)
- Where am I going? (What happens after I die? What is the future for humanity?)
The Christian worldview provides a story that answers these basic questions.
- Every story begins with a setting. The Christian story begins in Genesis 1 with the creation of humanity, made in God's image, and blessed to both manage the earth and to reproduce.
- Every story has a conflict. The Christian story conflict becomes clear in Genesis 3. Humanity rebels against its creator and as a consequence both managing the earth and childbirth become painful, even life-threatening.
- Stories have resolutions for their conflicts. The Christian story has a two-part resolution. First, God pursues humanity to redeem it from sin and suffering (Romans 5:8), and God promises a new existence for those who follow Him (see especially 1 Corinthians 15, and Revelation 21.
This story answers our basic questions, and it makes sense of life as we experience it.
Second, Understand the Worldview of Others
When speaking at a Christian conference, a woman approached me with concern for her Muslim friend. My suggestion: get to know the Koran better and maybe she could better answer his questions. Her response: "Why should I bother with that trash when I have the Truth?"
She had an excellent question. After all, in Philippians 4:8 Paul tells us to focus on the true, noble, right, pure, and lovely. Why should believers have patience with that which is contrary to Christian Scripture?
Please understand that I am not advocating warm and fuzzy relativism. Instead, I believe that 1 Corinthians 13 encourages believers to seek first to understand, and then to be understood. How?
- We seek understanding others by being patient, kind, honoring others without drawing attention to self, rejoicing in truth, and never giving up (vv. 4-7).
- Our knowledge is not perfect (vv. 9-12). Trying to understand the beliefs of others sends us back to Scripture with new questions that can provide new insights.
- And don't forget - even the gift of prophecy will someday pass away, but love is eternal (vv. 8, 13).
Third, Have a Conversation
My first year as a summer camp counselor at Pine Cove Christian Camps I eagerly awaited the arrival of my first group of campers, but I was also nervous. Could I really minister to the needs of these kids? A few days before our first group arrived, I came across Mark 4:26-29 in my NIV Bible.
[Jesus] also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."
This parable seemed like a promise to me. I simply needed to share what I could with my campers. God would take care of the rest.
I am convinced that God calls us to build relationships with non-believers. Like Israel's calling in the Old Testament, we are to be a light to the nations. Therefore your responsibility is loving conversation. Leave conversion to God. In practice, don't try to present the entire gospel in one discussion. Instead, listen intently and respond to your friend's assumptions, one at a time. When you listen first, you earn the right to share your own assumptions later. And keep the conversation going. When you focus on a conversation rooted in love, you can enjoy the relationship and still be true to your beliefs. By focusing only on one issue at a time, as they are raised by your friend, you are validating the relationship instead of selling a worldview.
Stanley J. Ward is the Director of Campus Life and Ministry at The Brook Hill School in Bullard, TX. He is also the author of Worldview Conversations: How to Share Your Faith and Keep Your Friends.
[i] James Sires' The Universe Next Door is particularly helpful. Although I must recommend my own book, Worldview Conversations: How to Share Your Faith and Keep Your Friends as an introduction to this topic, Sires' book is a great next step.
Publication date: August 29, 2011
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