Unity & Protest

“I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” – Mohatma Gandhi

I have been struggling for some time with the fact that Christians all too often look nothing like the Christ they claim to be following. I say this as an “insider” — a person who wants to continue to be identified as a follower of Jesus.

I say this as a person who believes that differences are to be expected within the church body and should be embraced rather than shunned. I believe we are to be people who wrestle with God and what it means to be his body on earth. This is a serious task that requires serious struggling with questions like:

What does love look like in this specific situation?

What does justice look like here?

What does grace look like in this case?

These are hard questions which will have many varied answers — all of which can be said to be within the scope of what it looks like to follow Christ. We, after all, have not been given an instruction manual with answers to every possible situation we may encounter in our days on earth.

Rather we have been given a story. A story of a God revealing himself and people responding to this revelation. They all respond in broken, hesitant, ways just like we do today. We are given stories of people who have gone before us to give us the faith and trust that though the path seems hard to navigate, many have gone before us and planted signposts helping to show us we are at least heading in the right direction.

…. And yet ….

Where is the line that identifies the boundary between what is actual, honest struggling with an attempt to be a little-Christ in the world and a flag-waving, Jesus-naming “Christianity” that looks nothing like the servant of all? The “cultural Christianity” that either pretends to honour the name of Jesus or is self-delusional so that those who claim this title of “Christian” truly believe they are serving Christ even if Jesus would say “depart from me, I never knew you”.

While I don’t know exactly where the boundary is, perhaps an example will help make this more tangible than simply words on a screen.

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Let’s say three people claiming to follow Jesus are looking at the current refugee crisis worldwide and are discussing what Jesus would do. The first person suggests that as a well-to-do country, we have a responsibility to share what we have and welcome in as many refugees as we can. The second thinks we need to look at a more balanced approach where we help severe cases immediately by relocating them to our country, but focus most of the attention on how to improve the conditions in the country they are fleeing. They want to see international aid drastically increased and peacekeeping groups sent to help the country with a long-term goal of having the country healed from within. The third person claims they are opposed to allowing anyone in because there is a chance they could be dangerous and also does not think additional aid will do anything except increase the debt of our country, so why should we bother — it’s not our problem.

The first two ideas are both examples of what it looks like to struggle for answers for how to love others, seek justice for the oppressed, and see the kingdom of God come on earth as it is in heaven. The third looks nothing like what Jesus would do or how his kingdom citizens should act on his behalf.

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My struggle for quite some time relates to this and has only grown more pronounced in recent years. I want to enter into conversations with people, self-identifying as Christians, who act out their faith in ways that are different than mine and have them encourage me to become more like the God I serve.

And I have found many people who do just that in my life.

Unfortunately, I have also found that many of the people who I truly believe sincerely want to follow Jesus instead do significant damage to the witness we are placed in the world to be.

When Christians are more likely to support military action than the average person in a country, something has gone wrong.

When Christ-followers are more likely to be persuaded by political platforms based on fear, exclusionary economic policies, and reduced social programs, the message of Christ has been lost somewhere in the cultural noise.

Where is the line between unity and protest?

When should we sit and talk with someone in the hopes of encouraging them in Christlikeness and when should we call out the actions and belief systems as being anti-Christ (as in being opposed to the message and actions of God in this world)?

How should someone interact with professing Christians who seem to discount the very heart of the Gospel? This is the news that Christ is King, Jesus is Lord and everything we do now needs to be centred on enacting the message that the Kingdom of God is here. Love, faithfulness, justice, patience, and more fruit of the Spirit are the way to live and act in the world now and anything else is not worth our energy.

There is a time for unifying language, but sometimes this need to be replaced with confrontational calls to repentance (by which I mean a complete rethinking of the way we live our lives and our actions in every aspect of life).

The goal in everything we do is repentance, restoration, and reconciliation, so how do we confront unChristlikeness amongst Christians in ways that will lead here? How and when do we let it be known that this is not what it looks like to be a Christian while still leaving a trail of crumbs that leads to redemption?

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Concentric Circles Revisited

A metaphor I keep coming back to in my life is one I discovered a few years ago that helps me properly engage any conversation about what I believe — especially if it may be slightly different from others who are also followers of Christ.

This is the concentric circles metaphor.

ConcentricCircles

The way it basically works is as follows …

At the centre of our faith is Christ. The Gospel essentially proclaims that Jesus is Lord and that his Kingdom is here and is now available to anyone who wishes to follow Him and live according to this “New Creation”, “eternal life” way of living. While we may disagree at the levels to come, all followers of Christ (Christians) have this in common; Jesus is Lord!

With this always as the focus and centre of our faith, the next circle is what I have called “Core Beliefs”, but could be called “dogma” as well. These are the central teachings of the historical/traditional church and can be seen most clearly in the creeds (Nicene or Apostle’s creed). Some examples include the belief in the trinity, the belief that Jesus was fully God and fully human, or the belief that Jesus died, was resurrected, and will return again. The interesting thing about this circle is that while there are a few core assertions, the specifics of what this means, or how it all works, are largely left out. These core beliefs are the mysteries of our faith that give broad strokes of what we believe.

The third circle is what we can refer to as doctrines. These include many things that Christians have typically affirmed, but that there have been disagreements about. These are the things that different denominations may disagree about — they tend to boil down to what specifically church dogmas mean when worked out more specifically. So, for example, what does it mean that God is sovereign? Does he control everything that happens or does he simply rule over everything that does happen? Why did Jesus die? Et cetera.

The final circle is opinions. We can call the group of beliefs found here “opinions” because they are beliefs that may be widely affirmed by many denominations, but they have not been generally accepted as church doctrine throughout history. They also tend to be very “cultural” in nature — in other words, they frequently deal with the controversies of the current day and not things that would apply to the church throughout history. Some examples could include gay marriage or the creation/evolution debate. While some may feel the bible strongly supports one side or the other of these debates, in the larger scheme of things, these are current-day issues and controversies that are largely peripheral to the grand story of the Gospel.

I continually find this way of thinking about my beliefs to be extremely helpful as it helps remind me to focus on the centre of my faith rather the boundaries.

What is Truth?

In our weekly bible study, we were studying John 18 where it says;

Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king. For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world – to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked, “What is truth?”

We ended up asking the very same question Pilate does here; what is truth?

My brain doesn’t necessarily work quickly enough when put “on the spot” to be able to think of the best way to formulate a response, but I thought I would write down some simple thoughts about “truth” now that I can (hopefully) articulate at least one of them.

While there are a few words translated as “truth” in the bible, the most important one — and the one used in this scripture verse — is alētheia (ἀληθής), which literally means “unconcealed” or “not forgotten”. While it means something that is true, real, or genuine, the implication is that something hidden has been revealed.

For me this fits very nicely with what I consider to be at the core of what the gospel is — Jesus came to reveal God.

He came to reveal what God has always been like.

He came to take what had been hidden (since the foundation of the world) and “unconceal” it.

He came to show us that the way of the Kingdom of God is the real, genuine way the cosmos actually works.

He came to demonstrate that self-sacrificial love and that faithfulness to the way of living he shows us, which is found most beautifully described in the sermon on the mount, are the path to true success.

He came to invite us to rethink everything (repent) in light of the fact that the Kingdom of God has burst into the Kingdom of this world and turned everything upside down.


My one concern with any conversation about truth is that we often have a tendency to equate “knowing the truth” with “being right” and the two are miles from the same thing.

A person can be certain they are right and yet still act in a way that is anything but a reflection of what God’s Kingdom is truly like*. In fact, certainty that we know what’s right is one of the quickest ways to ensure we do not act faithfully according to the way of living that is grounded in the truth (as centuries of Church history shows us).

For a Christian, truth can only be found in one place — Jesus himself. He reveals what God is like and his life is an example of what living in the truth looks like. And he said he would send us the Spirit to lead us into that same truth.

In that way, it seems to me that “truth” has less to do with specific actions (although these are often important) and more to do with a way of living. It is a way of acting within the world that is consistent with the character and nature of God himself — however that may work itself out in our daily actions.


At the end of the discussion this week, we were asked if we “really believe that what you believe is really real?”

While I think that is a fair question, I think it needs a little pushback with a second question; are you really interested in being led into “all truth” if you are not willing to question that what you currently believe may not be true?

I would argue that it is essential to hold both belief and doubt at the same time in order to follow Jesus. We need to have the faith to believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the life and that he will lead us and show us how to be and act in the world because we believe he is God and that he is King. This is the heart of the gospel.

But, at the same time, we need to doubt what we believe about how the world works and how we have been told God wants us to act in the world. We may need to adjust these beliefs to better align ourselves with the ways of the Kingdom of God. We need to focus on truth rather than “being right” and we need to question the systems of the world which cause us to act in ways that are not loving and just.

This is how we will know the truth and it will set us free.

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*  If I could speak with the tongues of men and angels and don’t have love …

 

The Story of Us

If you watch the news at all these days – which I do not recommend except in brief, quick bursts – you probably can’t avoid hearing about the state of America these days.

It’s not pretty.

If you are not American (like me), it can also be very easy to think things like; “Wow, I can’t believe they can be so stupid”, or “Man am I glad our country isn’t like that”, or even “Man, we (I) are (am) so much better than them”.

But these thoughts actually go the very heart of the issue. The story playing out in the US these days is the story of us. It is the story of the human heart. It is the story of tribal thinking. It is history repeating itself over and again.

I’ve had a small group of people give me a hard time for “going on about Trump” especially since I live in Canada and it really has very little direct impact on me personally.

This is true, except for two things:

  1. As horrible a man as I feel he is, I care less about Trump than I do about the fact that so many “good” people support him. More about this later …
  2. Seeing the evil in the heart’s of others will hopefully lead us to see the evil in our own hearts. This, I would hope, will lead to repentance and a change in direction for my own life.

So, let’s start with racism.

It can be very easy to believe that I am not racist. Except, the truth is that I am. All of us are. We all live in environments that condition us to prefer people that are just like us. The question is not whether or not we have these preferences for “sameness”, the question is whether or not we are working through this in an attempt to change.

I did not choose to be born white, but I do benefit from being white; am I content to simply reap the benefits selfishly for myself, or do I recognize the injustice that simply being born this way offers me advantages others do not enjoy and work to reduce these inequalities in whatever small ways I can?

Do I value things and systems that even inadvertently create barriers to certain “tribes” of people? Things like the justice system, voting systems, the economy, etc …

These things seem huge and ugly and beyond one person’s ability to change – and they may just be too big for me – but that doesn’t mean I should silently accept my privilege and ignore the impacts they have on others.

As a Christian, I feel it is our duty to bring the Kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven, and I don’t believe the Kingdom of God in heaven shows preference to someone simply because they were born with a lighter skin tone than someone else …

… or were born male rather than female …

… or was born in Canada rather than Palestine …

… or …

And this is why seeing “good”, “christian” people support policies that further create inequalities by preferring someone of this race, sex, country, etc … over another makes me so irate.

It is one thing for “your average Joe” to get sucked into the rhetoric of the world. The persuasive arguments that say:

  • “you need to look out for number one”
  • “it’s just business – it’s dog-eat-dog out there and you need to do whatever it takes to win”
  • “people get what they earn”
  • “success looks like this (money, fame, power)”
  • “if we could just ____, then everything would be perfect”
  • <insert your own>

But for a self-confessed “christian” to believe these statements is Biblical Illiteracy 101. Jesus came for the “least of these”. He says he did not come for the healthy and well-off, but for the sick and those who need help (which, if we are honest, is all of us). He is constantly on the side of the oppressed and those in need — and not once aligns himself with any form of worldly power or the rich.

The only conclusion I can come to when I see “christians” falling for these statements, policies, and beliefs is that they do not truly understand what being a Christian means, which is to follow in the footsteps of Christ and self-sacrificially give of ourselves for the sake of others.

Not for the sake of people who are just like us and can repay us, but for those “in need”.

For others we might consider enemies.

For people who cannot return benefit to us in any way but do not have access to the same things we do.

This is the what the Kingdom of God looks like when it comes on earth as in heaven. And that’s the only thing we “little Christs” are told to pursue.

Everything else will take care of itself if this is our focus we are told.

And we can trust that God will take care of us because He is Lord! He is the one who reigns over eternity and we can rest knowing his ways and his self-sacrificial focus is the true path to eternal “success”.

This Good News is so fundamental to christianity and yet seems lost to much of what calls itself christianity these days … and that is what I “go on about”.

Lord, help your church to begin to rise up and see it’s true calling as citizens of your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Help us to see the evil in our own hearts as reflected to us in our brothers, our leaders, and our enemies. Help us to repent of the ways we contribute to and condone ways that treat others as less important than ourself.

Amen!

Craving Community

In 2013, I decided to start writing on this blog. The reasons were entirely selfish; I think about a lot of things, but I don’t remember what I’ve been thinking about unless I write it down.

As anyone who has read anything on this page will know, there are times where I seem to write a lot and then there can be months on end where I don’t write anything. That is simply because I don’t feel like I am thinking about anything of real interest.

But then there are those occasional days that hit like a lightning bolt. After days and weeks of not being inspired by anything at all I get pummelled by a wealth of insight that fires the synapses in my brain and sends me thinking in a thousand directions … and so welcome to a post that is trying to capture multiple things I encountered today that made my brain melt.

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2014-05-30-Confirmation-Bias

This is as good a place to start as anywhere because it captures the three things I want to touch on in a single cartoon strip; community, facts, and identity. So, how exactly are these three things related:

  • Humans crave community
  • Community shapes identity
  • Community and identity shape perceptions, which overrule facts

The first synapse to fire this morning occurred when I read an article entitled Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds. While you can read the entire article for yourself, the basics are this; humans form perceptions very quickly and once they are formed, they are hard to change no matter how much new factual information is provided. Once we have an idea, we have a tendency to adapt new information to fit this idea rather than replace it based on the new information (this is called confirmation bias or “myside bias”). We also rely on other people’s expertise to the point that there is no sharp boundary between our ideas and those of other people in our “us” group. While this has allowed us to excel in a technological world – where we build on the accomplishments of people who have gone before us – it has very negative consequences when applied to opinions about things such as politics because we have a tendency to feel very passionate about policies and ideas we actually know little to nothing about.

I came away from this article thinking a lot about how our environment – our communities – have a very real impact on what we believe to be true. And then the second synapse fired …

The second article I read today was entitled Breaking Faith.  Once again, you can read the article for yourself if you’d like, but I’ll try to summarize it.

The article starts by describing the very real exodus from churches of millennials (and Americans as a whole). The focus of the article was not on why they are leaving (I have written elsewhere about some of those findings), but rather on what happens to them when they leave. The utopian belief was that as our countries get more secular, we will also become more tolerant of other people’s beliefs and things like the “culture wars” will naturally disappear due to simple demographics.

Unfortunately, this is not at all the case. What research is finding is that when people leave the church, they are not becoming more tolerant – they are simply becoming intolerant about different things. They may be less hostile to things like gay marriage, but they are becoming more hostile toward muslims, African American and latinos.

As people “disengage from organized religion, they tend to redraw the boundaries of identity, de-emphasizing morality and religion and emphasizing race and nation.”

Later in the day, I listened to a message from someone I respect, and while the main topic may not have related directly, one of the undercurrents in the message was how our perceptions of God shape how we speak about God.

“When you did these things, I was silent, so you thought I was exactly like you.” – Psalm 50:21

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The unifying thread through everything flying through my head today was that humans crave community. We identify ourselves as a part of a community. That community can be as small as family or as large as race or nation, but our communities give us a unique identity.

Communities and identity shape our perceptions and make us very resistant to any facts – truth – that may shake our community identity and cause us to question who we are and what that means for our lives. Our desire for community can make us ignore facts – even facts that could hurt us if not properly recognized.

As some communities shrink, others grow. We redefine the boundaries of “us” and “them” based on our community – our tribe – and this shapes how we look at the world.

What we value.

How we think.

When I put all of these thoughts together I was left with a simply yet major question; how can we create a Christian community that people want to identify with?

If we recognize the importance of community in the life of all people, how can we, as God’s kingdom, create community that invites people to come, creates an environment where the want to stay, and provides a positive identity that people are proud to call their own?

People crave community – let’s give it to them.

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On a personal note, I find it harder to call myself a Christian than it is to call myself Canadian. There is so much negative baggage attached to the label “Christian” these days — to many like myself it conjures images of judgemental, anti-science, intolerant people who refuse to engage culture or ask hard questions. To identify as “Christian”, I feel I must accept all these descriptions as well … that should not, and does not have to, be the case.

This is something we – as the church – can change.

How Do You Read the Bible?

There have been times in Christianity’s history where we have been called “people of the book”.

This is unfortunate.

Christians are not people of the book; we are “followers of The Way”.  We are people of the cross. We are little Christs.

The bible is an inspired book meant to reveal Jesus and without it, we would not have a record of the revelation of God in Jesus. It is crucially important. But discussions about the bible often lead to sentences like “the bible says it, I believe it, that settles it,” which, unfortunately, doesn’t really settle anything.

For people who have not been exposed to the wide organism that is “the church”, it can come as a shock to hear that what the bible says is not widely agreed on. Each denomination tends to interpret the bible through its own lens and that lens is shaped by many factors.

And then, each person within that denomination may read the bible slightly differently as well.

This multitude of potential ways of interpreting the Bible is called “Pervasive Interpretive Pluralism” and it is at the core of virtually any disagreement that takes place within a church as well as within the church as a whole.

For example, the church I attend is in the middle of having a discussion around the role of women in leadership. There are people within the church who have put forward opinions based on “biblical” teaching … but that is where the real issue reveals itself. Both sides can use the bible as a starting point for claiming their view is the “biblical” viewpoint.

The real question the church will ultimately have to ask itself is “how do we read the bible?”

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I see two key ways the bible can be read (of course there could be many ways I have not considered, so feel free to expand my limited thoughts):

The first view sees the bible as the inspired word of God that should be taken “literally” and at “face-value”. It is similar to a guidebook or a roadmap that can provide us with everything we need in order to live a Godly life.

People who hold to this view of the bible have a tendency to go to the bible for definitive answers and these answers are not subject to questioning from non-biblical sources and/or alternative views found in scripture. Because things need to be taken at face-value, very little effort needs to be taken to determine context, literary devices such as metaphor, poetry, etc … because the bible needs to be accessible to everyone, not simply those with the time and money to afford a theological education.

The second view sees the bible as the inspired word of God that uses many differing ways of communicating to tell the story of God. It invites people to enter into the story and, while it will not often give definitive answers, will provide basic tools to help guide your choices and actions today – despite the very severely different cultural circumstance than when it was initially written. It does this because the same spirit that inspired its writing is with us as we read it, which allows that same inspiration to apply ancient words to modern contexts not of any importance in the time it was written.

People who hold this view of the bible tend to go to the bible for basic “rules of thumb” about how to handle a situation. They often see the bible as a dialogue with many alternate viewpoints and try to look for broad themes to guide their actions rather than simple rules. This leads to difficulties because without firm answers, they can never be sure their choices are right, just that their hearts are in the right place. They have a tendency to lean heavily on “expert” sources in order to unveil things they never would have discovered for themselves.

As you can tell, these are very different ways to approach the same written words. I’ve begun to see that most theological debates boil down – at their core – to a basic question of how one reads the bible. Each side of the debate cannot agree on the “rules of engagement”; how to treat the biblical texts.

As a result, people often find themselves speaking in a vacuum because the other side is simply not capable of seeing the bible through the same lens and therefore cannot see what the other sees as plainly taught in the bible.

My suggestion is to keep this in mind the next time you find yourself discussing the bible with someone who uses a scripture in a way you can’t understand. You may both be trying to form a biblical perspective … you just have a different view of what the bible is and how it should be used.

Have grace for “the other” and avoid trying to anoint your interpretive lens as the only interpretive lens — and be kind.

How to Build Relationships in a Post-Social Media World

A few years ago I wrote a series of posts titled “The Internet is Destroying My Brain”. Lately I have been thinking about some of the themes I discussed in that series as it relates to our current cultural climate and how we are now relating to one another both on a small scale and on a global scale. While you can go back and read the original posts (1, 2, 3, 4), one of the main things I tried to convey is that if we truly want to counteract the very real ways our brains are being shaped and reformed by the Internet, we need to take determined steps to cultivate alternative ways of interacting with people.

In the cultural climate that exists today – thanks in large part to our over-reliance on social media and the need for immediate information – we seem to have become incapable of having real conversations in which we seek to discover what other people actually think and what motivates them. Instead we either engage in constant exchanges where we talk past each other in an effort to be right (or at least have the last word) or we remove ourselves from relationships in order to avoid conflict and, as a by-product, create echo-chambers of like-mindedness where we never honestly and thoroughly listen to an opinion that contradicts our quickly-developed beliefs about the latest topic put in front of our hungry eyes.

Neither of these is a recipe for building a healthy relationship.

Constantly arguing with another person makes both people involved want to escape and limit their interactions with one another. While not as overtly hostile, removing oneself in order to “fake” peace is in many ways worse than open conflict. It often means a part of the person “faking it” has died. They no longer feel they can have an honest conversation with this person and would rather not bother even trying.

Relationships are not only hurt by aggressive conversations, they can be even more impacted by silence. At least conflict shows a passion – apathy shows the opposite.

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To get a list of some ideas of how to counteract our digital culture’s impact on our brains (that I believe is still valid today), read the links above. What I want to focus on today are a few foundational relationship skills that seem to be deteriorating in both our interpersonal relationships and our global conversations. Some we can do whether or not they are reciprocated, while others require both parties commit to working on the relationship (although if they aren’t reciprocated, it probably means the relationship isn’t long for this world).

1. Listen

Really listen! This is one of the hardest thing to do these days. Listening doesn’t simply mean hearing what the other person is saying, it means probing in order to figure out what someone is actually trying to say. It means not simply hearing just enough to respond; it means keeping silent long enough to discover why a person is saying what they are saying (“One who spares words is knowledgeable; one who is cool in spirit has understanding. Even fools who keep silent are considered wise; when they close their lips, they are deemed intelligent.”). People so often dance around what they actually want to say for any number of reasons, so in order to draw this out, silence and asking open questions (that are not loaded or leading in a certain direction) are key to actually hearing what a person wants to say.

This requires discipline. It requires time. It requires patience. Lots of patience. It is slow work in a fast-food world.

But listening is foundational to developing relationships.

2. The Disciplines of Selflessness & Empathy

Let’s just call a spade a spade – we’re all selfish. We are very good at quickly determining the benefits and threats to us in almost any conversation. (How does the teacher’s work-to-rule impact me? – or – How do teacher’s contract negotiations impact me?). We are not very good at all at setting aside how things impact us and instead trying to understand their impact on other people (How does work-to-rule impact the parents of child x who are no longer getting the supports they need? – or – How are working conditions affecting teacher x?).

While I could go down a path here to talk about how, as a Christian, the very centre of my faith is the absolute greatest act of selflessness. This is true and very much forms how I believe, but selflessness is essential in order to have any true relationship with another living person. Love requires that you suspend – at least temporarily – desires for self-preservation and self-interest and instead focus on the flourishing of another person. It can be as simple as putting aside a deadline in order to listen to a friend explain how hard a week they are having or it can be as big as putting yourself in harm’s way in order to protect a child. No matter what form it takes, love requires that you think about someone else above yourself.

This leads naturally to a second discipline; feeling empathy for another person. This is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. The time you have selflessly taken to listen and try to understand where a person is coming from should lead you to understand them better and will hopefully help you feel how others are being affected by things you may not have previously understood.

We all share basic emotions and motivations and when we listen to understand, we begin to recognize how these can cause others to feel the way they do about whatever is causing conflict.

3. Trust

Relationships are built upon trust. Love and trust walk hand-in-hand.

Trust can only exist when both sides in a relationship are committed to building a trusting environment where the relationship can flourish. Trust can only be built by listening, loving selflessly, and empathizing with one another.

Trust means developing a shared space where each person can communicate honestly with one another and know that the relationship is safe – it will not implode because you reveal a part of yourself you have long kept hidden. It means knowing that another person will not just agree with you to “keep the peace”, but will speak honestly and call you on the ways you may be out of line, but in a way that is not motivated by self-interest, etc … (see above).

Without trust, a fake facade is all we can give to one another. This may all you want from many acquaintances, but is a poor substitute for a real friend. Real friendships are risky and can hurt, but trust allows us to see that the pain is temporary while the relationship will last.

Trust takes a long time to build and is very easy to lose.

4. Be Open to Change

This may seem self-explanatory – and it is – but too often we are not open to change. And people can feel whether or not you are open to change before a conversation even starts. Think about any number of conversations you have had where you enter into a conversation where you know right away that each of you is simply listening in order to respond rather than listening to actually listen. It seems to me that this defines a large number of conversations people have today.

But change is essential for growth.

People change. Relationships change as a result. In order to keep a relationship healthy, each person must change to reflect the changes in the other. It is the only way we can move together on the path of life.

If we are not open to change, we are not open to having relationships with others.

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These are just a few things I have been thinking about and I am sure there are thousands of other things to consider. I believe these are both foundational and at the heart of the gospel call of God’s kingdom as well — funny how that works.