I boarded a plane for Boston this morning and witnessed something that grabbed my attention. A man, we’ll call him Wisdom, came down the aisle and stood by the man, we’ll call him Foolish, seated directly in front of me. Foolish stood up to let Wisdom into the row whereupon Wisdom politely said, “I have the seat you’re in.” Foolish quickly replied “No you don’t.”
Foolish could have responded in a number of ways. He could have chuckled and said, “well, it’s possible!” He could have said, “really? Let me check my boarding pass.” Instead he simply and confidently replied, “No you don’t” Foolish was wrong. He was in the wrong row. To his credit he apologized and promptly moved.
It made me think of how I often exert my opinion with great confidence only to find I’ve misjudged a situation, an argument, a person. I see this happen in some things I post on Facebook or Twitter. People respond with great certainly:
“You’re an idiot.”
You call yourself a Christian?”
“How can you possibly think that?”
“God, (the Bible, the church, etc..) disagrees with you!”
And on and on.
I want to be wise. I want to be willing to engage people who challenge my position (my seat) and rather than just immediately disagree or pass judgment on their views, offer something different:
“I don’t understand but I’m willing to listen.”
“That’s challenging, let me explore it some more and we can talk again.”
“How would you respond to this other way of seeing it?”
One of my favorite passages of scripture as it relates to ministry is this one:
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” – 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (ESV)
Obviously the thought is going one way in that passage. Correcting, others coming to their senses, escaping the devil’s snare, etc… But the important words that stand out to me? Not quarrelsome, kindness, patience, gentleness. It’s only as we open our lives to others with respect and welcome that we can engage in a winsome and winning way. And who knows? Perhaps doing so might lead us to repent of a few mindset snares of our own.