I don’t know about you, but I find that one of the most frustrating circumstances is to share with another person, or group of persons, a different point of view concerning a doctrinal or theological issue; and as soon as I stop speaking, if they wait that long, I am discredited without the benefit of having been heard. Now, my literal words were heard, but the other person did not really listen to me, and no attempt was made to understand what I had shared. They are right; I am wrong, and there will be no discussion on the matter! Is this beneficial? Are we to puff ourselves up with the certitude that we have arrived at the truth and that there is nothing else for us to learn? Do we ever reach a point where we are not to examine our faith and practices to see if we might not be fully living in light of what God says? Perhaps we resist another’s perspective out of fear that we might be wrong. Yet, isn’t this how we mature in faith?
The church is called to a ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5), yet how can we work at reconciling if we stick our fingers in our ears and refuse to consider another person’s perspective? One of my favorite books is Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf. In this book he speaks of the concept of “double-vision” and states, “We enlarge our thinking by letting the voices and perspectives of others, especially those with whom we may be in conflict, resonate within ourselves, by allowing them to help us see them, as well as ourselves, from their perspective, and if needed readjust our perspectives as we take into account their perspectives” (213). Shouldn’t the community of faith embrace this process? How are we to live among one another, and love one another, if we are not open to embrace views that are different from our own? This does not necessitate that we change our views; but if we do not honestly attempt to understand the perspectives of others, we do not have authentic relationships. Our relationships with others are to be based on mutual love and respect, which means another person’s point-of-view is just as valid as our own. If we purposely silence and disregard the voices of others, we hinder our community from growing into a deeper understanding of God, and we do not witness a love for God and others.