If you’re a podcast listener, I have a recommendation for you. Jim Davis, who spoke at our Redeemer men’s retreat a while back has a podcast he’s produced with a fellow pastor in Orlando called As In Heaven. Season Two is about race and racism. And the first episode in Season 2 is an interview with someone I respect as a pastor and thinker – Dr. Crawford Loritts. I found the conversation helpful and clarifying. You can listen or download here, or search for it wherever you get your podcasts.
One of things that stood out for me in the conversation was a framework that the hosts say they use as they seek to evaluate different ideas. They talked about following this pattern in their analysis: Comprehend, commend and critique.
Anytime we’re engaging with people on big ideas, the first goal is to make sure we comprehend what another person is saying. I’ve seen conflict erupt in a dialogue simply because one person is upset by what they thought the other person was saying. Or someone may use a phrase like “social justice” only to find that what they meant is very different from what another person thought they were saying. In a highly polarized culture, it’s a good idea to make sure we do the hard work of seeking to trying to make sure we’re comprehending what other people are saying. We ask a lot of questions. We hold off on making quick judgments.
Once we are sure we’re comprehending what someone else is saying, the next step in the process – a step that is often ignored – is the “commend” step. It’s where we take the time to affirm the good aspects of what we’ve heard. We express our agreement with whatever we can find that we believe is good and right and true about what the other person has said.
Author Brett McCracken provided an example of what I’m talking about in an article he posted on line this week. He talked about the yard sign some of you may have seen popping up around town.
McCracken notes that while you might not share the politics or the worldview of your neighbor who has the sign in their yard, there’s a lot in each of these phrases that is biblical. There’s a lot we can affirm and agree with.
But for many of us (or at least for me), there is a tendency for us to move quickly to what is step three in this engagement matrix. As soon as we think we comprehend what someone is saying, we jump right past any commendation and move quickly to critique. We’re quick to correct what is wrong with how another person is thinking. Instead of seeing if we can build a bridge of understanding, we dismiss the other person easily because of what in our mind is their clearly flawed thinking.
Think about this for just a minute. What would happen in a conversation with a family member or a co-worker with whom you disagree, if you began asking that person to help you understand more clearly what it is they believe about the subject at hand? And what if before you challenged their thinking, you took a few minutes to say “you know, here’s where I think we probably agree…”
Comprehend. Commend. Critique. What would happen if before we ever got to step three, we made sure we had done a good job with steps one and two?
The apostle James said that everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak. He was talking about the importance of seeking to comprehend what someone else is saying.
The Apostle Paul told the Christians in Thessalonica to “encourage one another and build one another up.” It is right for us to commend the good we see in others.
It’s not wrong to point out the error in someone’s thinking. It’s not wrong to push back or say to another person “I don’t see this the way you do.” But before we critique someone, we should make sure we’ve done our best to really understand them and to affirm what we can in them. That’s how bridges of understanding are built.
There’s no guarantee that following this pattern will bring about a breakthrough when there is a disagreement with someone. We’ve become culturally conditioned to defend our ideas and score as many debate points as we can in the process. But as followers of Jesus, our goal is to make sure the way in which we interact with everyone – even those with whom we disagree – makes it clear to them that we affirm their dignity and worth as people created in God’s image.
And it’s possible, isn’t it, that there are areas where our thinking is skewed or our ideas are wrong? When we begin with the goal of comprehending and commending before we ever critique someone, we demonstrate a posture of humility.
And that’s always a good posture for people who follow Jesus.
TRUNK or TREAT!
Thanks to those of you who have already brought candy for us to use for the upcoming Trunk or Treat event on Friday night, October 30. Here’s a flyer we’ll be using in local neighborhoods to help promote the event.
|Have you thought about being one of our trunks?|
|Again, all you’d have to do is put a simple game together and man your trunk in a socially distanced manner. We’ll provide you with the candy to give away. Let Jen Gurney know you’re up for it. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org ).|
And don’t forget to be praying that God will use this event to help us demonstrate love to our neighbors and build relationships with people in our community. Pray that God will water the gospel seeds we’re hoping to plant that evening.
nursery open 0-3 years old
The nursery is open on Sunday mornings for kids 0-3 years old. If you’re planning to come and bring the kids, you can click here to let us know so we can make sure the nursery is fully staffed this Sunday for our kids.
What do you do with a promise from Christ that if you tell a mountain to move and really believe it will, it will be done? Could it be that we know more about what this passage doesn’t mean that we do about what it does mean? Are you ready to have Jesus blow your mind and galvanize your prayer life? Keith Thomas will take us to Mark’s gospel this Sunday to help us understand what Jesus is telling us about faith and prayer.
See you (in person or on line) Sunday!
Soli Deo Gloria!