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Have you ever had a friend who was so on fire for Jesus that Christianity was all they talked about, read about, or viewed? How did that make you feel? Inadequate or like you didn’t measure up? Don’t feel too bad. Chances are, most Christians have felt this way and more often than not. The “on fire” Jesus freak can actually turn people away from the God if they’re not wise in how they go about sharing their faith.
Christians can have the absolute best intentions but still miss the mark when they stop listening to and engaging with people that disagree with them. Christians can learn a ton of valuable lessons from other religions and cultures without compromising their faith. The truth is, they will actually become stronger.
Christians can sometimes have biases in the way they view others and end up not giving an accurate account of how things really are. Learning from non-Christians can help Christians more honestly engage in arguments with a deeper understanding of what others believe. When someone feels like they are understood, they begin to lower their walls and let new ideas in. By taking a step back and genuinely listening to (with the intent of understanding) someone else’s situation, one will begin to learn much more.
Once we truly understand people we disagree with, healthy dialogue can ensue.
Build Common Ground
The Apostle Paul was a great example of knowing other cultures and understanding where they came from. He used his knowledge of cultures and backgrounds to build common ground between the people he sought to lead to Jesus.
1 Corinthians 9:22-23 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.
When a person can relate to a shared experience, it creates a safer, more open environment for communication. For instance, Paul was raised as a strict Jew, so he was able to call upon that prior life knowledge to meet the Jews where they were. The great thing was he also did this for the Gentiles he ministered to. Paul spent large amounts of time living and working among the people, building common ground and using that platform to speak about the kingdom of God.
The hard truth is that the world is a pretty complex place and there isn’t a black and white solution for every problem. Societies and cultures differ in almost every way, and one set of rules doesn’t always work for everyone. Christians need to become open to listen and learn from everyone they interact with, trying to avoid the mistake of isolating themselves in a Christian-only environment. Never compromise faith, but don’t ever be so closed-off that it pushes everyone who is even slightly different away.