Monday, January 30, 2006

Reflections: Listening to people...

Regarding the previous blog article here, I was just thinking and reflecting over my experiences in this particular department.

The dark period in my life which found its icon in the Purpose Driven movement (April 2004 - December 2005) was also the period whereby God transform and change me through the refining fire. During this period, there were a couple of instances of people whereby they have tried to show me something which was biblical and relevant to the issues I was facing at that particular time but I didn't take it to heart and dismiss them. I would like to share why I have reacted this way then and lessons I have learned, especially with regards to the issues raised in the previous blog article.

During that period, there were a few people who gave me good, biblical advice. However, there was rather a significant problem. They were on the 'bad' side, so to speak, and they had embraced all the errors that I was fighting against. For example, I had advice from a former church pastor who implicitly endorsed the sale of a Catholic booklet regarding the Passion [of the Christ by Mel Gibson] (which teaches various heresies) about how to deal with the situation. Reflecting back, some of the advice were biblical. However, because of his implicit endorsement of such a heinious act, I have rejected his advice out of hand, probably convinced that he is just trying to protect the top guy making the decision there. He can show me all the 'love' he can, but I would not and still will not spit on my Savior's face in such an act of treason by stopping my protest.

If there is one rule which describes my 'psychological responses' to such ministerial issues, it would be

"I will listen to you when I know you have the same convictions on a particular related subject as me; I don't care how much you care or how much you know until I see that you have the same convictions on a particular related subject as me."

as contrasted with:

"People will listen to you when they know you care for them; People don't care what you know until they know that you care".

Given that Christianity is based on Truth as expressed in God's Word, when it comes to issues where doctrines take a significant place, no amount of 'love', 'care' and 'concern' would change my conviction. When it comes down to listening to people's advice, however, their position as an enemy gave me less reason to consider their advice seriously, admittedly since some of their could be worked out as compromise or defeat, which given the fact that they were given by such compromised and defeated people seems to give them little moral authority. Some illustrations from real and imagined scenarios to show how people with different beliefs could very well have their advice possibly ignored are:

Scenario: X is a person in the ministry who doesn't state his position. During a series of group emails, certain things critical of the pastor's action were sent by Z. Pastor was not informed then yet.
X says: You should inform the pastor first, not go through group email.
Interpretation: Lacking any acknowledgement of the pastor's fault, or about the error in the actions, this translates into 'you are wrong, period'. While it is true that the action taken through sending the group emails was wrong, the pastor WAS in fact in error. Thus, X's moral authority is non-existent. Now, if X has just said that he acknowledged that the pastor was definitely wrong, and said that Z was wrong in his actions, that would make him listen.

Scenario: Y is an ecumenical minded person who have no problems calling Roman Catholics and Eastern, Greek and Russian Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ, and also think they are going to heaven. In fact, she believes that sincere seekers in other religions could also be saved (inclusivism). One day, she and her Roman Catholic friend T heard a pastor friend W preached that Roman Catholicism is a false religion that damn its followers to hell and told her friend T to convert or go to hell.
Y says: You horrible bigot! Please show some love for our sister T.
Interpretation: Lacking any acknowledgement that T is indeed going to hell if she truly believes in the heresy of Roman Catholicism, Y's advice to W to be more loving translates into "She is going to heaven. You're wrong". While it is indeed true that it is not loving to point the finger and personally condemn a person to hell unless that person repents, the fact that Y personally believes in a false gospel gave her no moral authority and spiritial high ground, thus her advice sounds hollow.

Therefore, in my position, sharing the same convictions would made me listen more to the person. For example (just an example), in order to have a more fufilling prayer life. I would rather listen to the advice of a person who believes that prayer is communication with God and doesn't change God's will at all, then to follow the same advice from a person who believes that prayer changes God's will.

With regards to lessons learnt, I know that it is not easy to listen to advice from 'enemies' and weigh it according to Scriptures. I can not say that I have been able to do so but I will try to do it next time.

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