In February my beautiful bride and I spent 12 days in Ireland for her birthday – A trip I had been planning for three years. And even with so much anticipation, it did not disappoint. The landscapes, castles, history and museums were AMAZING!
One of the pleasant surprises was the friendliness of the Irish people. At first we thought it was just good customer service since we were in hotels, restaurants and tourist sites mostly. But we quickly learned that friendliness is just the Irish way. Similar to the way the south was traditionally known for “come on in and sit a spell!” and “ya’ll come back now, ya here!?” the Irish people seemed to genuinely want to talk with us and get to know us – we were their interesting American foreign friends.
For instance, while taking a photo of a beautiful landscape of a farm on the coast, an old farmer walked over to our car (despite my letting him know we were just taking a quick photo) sat on the fence post and commenced to start a conversation about the car, our tires, the landscapes and life. I’m pretty sure if we weren’t in a hurry to get to the next destination, he would have invited us in for coffee and to meet the family. And this sums up the way we found most Irish people to be. They were precious, gracious, very friendly and eager to get to know their new friends from across the pond.
On several occasions we were asked the same question. After introductions and pleasantries (that usually included “Why didn’t you bring some sunshine with you from Florida!?”) people would say, “So what do you think about Trump?” – “Woah!? They asked what!?” Is what Ada and I thought.
We had this reaction because in the U.S. people don’t ask strangers that question. That would be considered inappropriate, or possibly even rude. Tread carefully as your next words may start a war. As the old saying goes, we can talk about anything except “politics, religions & ex-wives.”
So at first we were slightly taken aback…
Then we began to realize that people were asking because they were genuinely curious of our opinion on President Trump.
Make no mistake, they had their opinion. I’m pretty sure every human on the planet has an opinion on President Trump. You could probably find an aborigine in the Outback of Australia that doesn’t have electricity or a TV and he would still have an opinion on President Trump.
No, it’s not that they were uninformed and looking for council, it’s that they were curiously what other people thought – specifically – what an American thought. They legitimately wanted to know our thoughts. Not to argue or find an Ally, but to hear the ideas of another human being. They really were just curious what we thought.
So they asked and politely listened.
This led me to the question: Why was this so odd? Why don’t we talk politics in the United States with strangers? Or for that matter, why do we so frequently only talk politics with people we know agree with us?
In the U.S. we are divided into warring camps with a great divide between us. We separate ourselves from those who don’t agree with us and then talk bad about the other side. Further deepening our resentment of the other side and solidifying why “Our side is right!” because all “our people” agree with us.
Then we ask this great question: “How could anyone think like that?” Which is truly a great question, the problem is we’re asking the people in our own camp that question, and not those on the other side who actually that way. So we decide, based on our limited understanding and tainted worldview, why they think like they do. And we create answers like, ” They think like that because they’re racist,” “because they’re ignorant of the facts,” “because their communists,” “because they have an agenda,” or some other similar answer that is neither true nor honest… but if we repeat these answers to ourselves enough times, they begin to seem true because of repetition… plus everyone on “our side” agrees with us. This frequently becomes name calling and slander.
The problem is you can’t ask someone on “our side” of the argument why someone on the “other side” thinks a certain way. THEY DON’T REALLY KNOW.
HOWEVER… and prepare yourself for this… you CAN ask someone on the “other side” how they came to their conclusion. “But won’t that start an argument?” you may ask. Well, an argument takes two people. Maybe if we respect the person as a human created in the image of God and not as the enemy, and spent more time listening and less time talking we could begin a dialogue and help bridge a divide. As your mother told you, “God gave you two ears and one mouth so you should listen twice as much as you talk.”
Our problem is that we are often more concerned with winning an argument than winning a friend. As Christians, God hasn’t called you to win every argument. He has called you to love people. Remember, a political opponent is not your enemy. Your enemy is the devil. And you’re not going to battle spiritual principalities with human arguments… You need the both The Blood and The Word for that.
When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment he responded with “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
Sometimes loving is listening. As the old adage goes, “People don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care.” Listening shows the person that you care about them.
So… maybe we can learn something from our Irish brothers and sisters. Maybe we could honor people by listening instead of preaching. (They’ve probably heard your sermon 1,000 times now anyway.) And maybe by listening we can begin to bridge a great divide. This doesn’t mean we always remain silent, just that we’re wise to know when to talk.
Imagine a world where asking “What do you think about Trump?” led to a conversation instead of an argument.
Imagine a world where we listened to one another and cared more about the person than our argument.
That’s the world Christian’s are expected to manifest. And that’s the way I will choose to speak to my friends on the “other side.”
As I’ve said a few times recently to our church, “If you can’t speak the truth in love we probably shouldn’t be speaking it at all.”
Esse Quam Videri,
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