A while back I came across a saying on Facebook. It said, “Listen to understand, not to respond.” This should go without saying. How can we respond adequately if we do not comprehend? However, we live in a world where we are quick to speak, slow to hear, and ready to beat down anyone who challenges our convictions. In doing so, we violate scripture and we damage our witness.
James 1:19–20 says, “My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness” (emphasis mine). This has become a lost art for many of us. After viewing a 20 second video clip, we are ready to pass judgment on issues we really don’t understand and venues like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram give us the vehicle to say it all to the world.
Have we ever stopped to consider the benefits of disagreement?
Disagreement, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. It can actually be very beneficial. For example, the early church discovered the doctrine of the Trinity because of an opposing view. This doctrine states that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all One (having the same essence) and distinct, at the same time.
Man did not invent the idea of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit being “The Trinity.” The basis of this is scripture, beginning in Genesis 1:26, where God said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”. But, since the word “trinity” is not found in scripture the idea has been formalized into a doctrine. But where did this start? It started with a question that led to a disagreement and the time to find the answer.
As we look into the Christian Intellectual Tradition, the youth High School Sunday school class came across a guy named Marcion. He lived approximately 85-160 A.D. Marcion asked the question, “How can Jesus be God and the Old Testament God also be God?” Now, Marcion’s answers to these questions would not line up with most anyone reading this post. But that is not the point. Marcion’s question, and his very creative response, prompted the church to grapple with the question.
As the church worked through the question, what we know as the Doctrine of the Trinity was discovered. I use the word “discovered” rather than “defined” to make a particular point. The Trinity always existed. Evidence of the Trinity can be found all over scripture. But it took diligent study, instigated by a question that lead to a formal doctrine.
What if the early church had not wrestled with Marcion’s claims? What if they had only listened to respond and not to understand? While Marcion’s answers to his own questions are a great departure from the teaching of scripture, (he was declared a heretic in 144) his question was still valid. In treating it as such the early church not only found the trinity, but an appreciation for the Old and New Testaments being two parts of a whole.
With this in mind let us truly listen to the world around us. When you push past the bluster to the heart of the matter, people are asking the same questions they have always asked. Maybe we have the answer to those questions. Maybe the questions push us to discover the answer for ourselves. And once we have an answer, I pray that we have treated the questioner with enough respect and dignity that they will listen to the answer we have found.