Conversation as a Vehicle of Love
I’ve been talking to God and trying to listen about how I might better “love my neighbor.” A neighbor is simply whomever is standing in front of you. (“Neighbor” is from the old English word, meaning the person nigh/near you). In the midst of this my friend Jim Knight passed along an article he wrote on Principles for True Partnership. I was quite moved by how I heard God speak to me in the midst of it. It gives me a vision of life in the Kingdom of God and a picture of what Jesus was like when he walked the earth.
Mutuality: “Do I interrupt or moralistically judge others?” When we embrace the principle of mutual equality, we recognize the value and dignity of others. One small but important way we live out this principle during conversation is that we let others speak without interrupting them. People usually interrupt to take control, to put themselves in a superior position; interrupting is a power move. If I see others as equals, I need to let them speak. (All humans are made in the image of God.)
When we moralistically judge others, we aren’t just discerning a clear picture of reality (as we see it). We are implying or stating that others are bad people—“lazy,” “selfish,” “clueless,” and so on. Moralistically judging others violates the principle of equality because judgment, by definition, comes from a place of superiority. (Romans 12:16 Do not claim to be wiser than you are.)
Choice: “Can I let go of control?” A partnership conversation is not one where I try to get you to do what I have decided you need to do. A partnership conversation is a free interchange between equals where each person’s ideas, thoughts, and beliefs are valued, and where both partners have the courage to be shaped by each other.
Voice: “Do others know I think their opinions are important?” When we act on the principle of voice, others know that they have been heard. Internally, we need to focus on what others say, listening without assumptions. Externally, we need to put away our devices and communicate non-verbally, through eye contact, an open stance, not completing someone’s sentences, and so on so that others know they have been heard.
Dialogue: “Do I see others’ strengths? Do I want what’s best for them and am I open to being shaped by them?” Dialogue requires humility, faith, and love. Humility means that we open ourselves to other’s opinions and let go of the need to be right. Faith means that we see others’ strengths and competencies. Love means that we have others’ best interests at heart. When these three conditions exist, trust will follow. (Rom 12:10 Show honor to one another.)
Reflection: “Do I avoid giving advice?” Generating ideas and solving problems can be pleasurable experiences. Many of us love to do all that thinking, even if we’re doing it for other people. We often find it a struggle not to jump in and tell others exactly what we know is best for them. Unfortunately, when we gift others with our wisdom, we take away their opportunity to solve their own problems, thereby violating their opportunity to think for themselves.
One place this kind of community practice happens well is at School of Kingdom Living, an 18-month certificate program where we meet 4 times in person and every week on Zoom. Register Now for the next cohort or feel free to contact our director, John Carroll.
Grace and Peace,