The season is here where we remember the resurrection. In my view the best theologian on this subject apart from Jesus during His earthly ministry was Martha. At one point we have her telling Jesus about the resurrection (John 11:24). At that point she is disappointed Jesus was late in responding to Lazarus’ sickness … too late was her conclusion. Relying on what she knew, she was judgmental. In her mind Jesus should have been there sooner, hope was lost, a life was now gone!
Now there are great advantages of gaining knowledge. I am extremely thankful for the privilege of sitting under good teaching on many topics in my life, including an awesome amount of Biblical training through the years. I can add to that the personal preaching and teaching experiences of my life that have added to that data. On one level I am ready to argue theology until the cows come home, armed with resources to ‘give an answer to anyone’. Now that stance, however, can make me feel comfortable and smug because I know the answers. I also now feel as if I know how churches ‘should’ operate, how preaching ‘should’ be done, and how others ‘should’ behave. Unfortunately if I let those ‘shoulds’ get in the way I can become hindered in further learning, argumentative, critical of others in their ministry, distant in relationships, as well as too fast to speak and too slow to listen.
This Winter I have audited a course on Islam at King’s University College with a teacher who is a moderate Shi’a Imam. I have mostly sat silent learning about an area previously unfamiliar to me. It has involved middle Eastern history, the development of Islamic thought, and a sense of what is more normal for Muslim people. (Sure there are fanatics, but Christians have had many of their own over the years.) The class has not changed my theology at all, but I have been amazed how ignorant I have been. I was previously loaded up with stereotypes that would have kept me from speaking openly and without reserve to Muslim people. Unexpectedly I’ve learned much about myself in the midst of this class. Now I hope I can enter better conversations with these people in my own neighbourhood. I think I could even commend many pieces of their practices and beliefs and not come across as overly biased and judgmental. An actual meaningful conversation can now take place. There is still lots I do not know about Islam, but much of my irrational fear has disappeared.
Our own learning can keep us from truly listening to others. This might be from our own children, our spouse, our employers, or another pastor/teacher. Recent studies by Ambrose’s Joel Thiessen show that Christians are known by average Canadians as judgmental. People often close us out because of their stereotypes, but I’ve had my own through the years.
Can I change how the average Canadian sees me? Can I be known instead by my love, my grace, and my listening ears? I trust I can do this while showing an unwavering faith in the Resurrection of Jesus and His current work in me.
Your ever learning co-worker, Dennis
P.S.: Celebrate the Risen Jesus!