Oh wait! There's more!

Who would have thought that after 24 hours I would have more to say about communication? Well, I do. I started asking myself about ways that I communicate poorly, and I started remembering things from the Bible. Imagine that? For starters, Jesus talked about relationships quite a bit. Jesus did this whole bit on what the Law said concerning how we treat each other, and how He calls us to live at a standard even higher than simply obeying the Law.

If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

Do I do this? Do I make sure that there is no one on this earth who can hold a legitimate claim against me before I come before the throne of God? Hell no. I don’t even come remotely close to doing that. I justify keeping to myself. I convince myself and others that I’ve done all I can, when that is so rarely the case.

As if that wasn’t enough for me to see my own faults, I saw this little note in the margin of my Bible that pointed me to the letter to the Romans. Paul talked about relationships too, apparently.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

Bless those who persecute me? Be of the same mind? Respect what is right in the sight of all men?! Seriously? How on earth am I supposed to do all of that? I can’t even agree with some people on the color of the sky and I have to do all of this?

And there it is again: me. I’m the problem. I hide in my hole and surround myself with activities so that I can avoid admitting to someone I may have been wrong. Why is it so hard to say sorry? Or to even ask why someone is upset? Am I that selfish that I won’t make sure something isn’t my fault?

I am becoming more and more aware that there are habits and perspectives in my life that have to change. And as I stand and stare out, looking at these changes like a small child staring down an elephant, I pray that God will not allow me fall short of the life that He has given me.

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Quality Communication

              

What is it about communication that is so difficult? The local church I attend is pretty bad at it. And its not just one person. Its all of us. Particularly me. I’m awful at it. For me, communication is a dangerous thing. I rarely seek to communicate unless I am emotionally invested in an idea, and usually I only want to participate in the discussion if I’m upset. I’m the same way at work, always have been.

I reckon there are some parts of community that I just don’t get. And I’ve been racking my brain on this communication thing. Its draining. We feel like we make things perfectly clear, even to the point of using words and language that we feel is crystal, yet still people come away with the wrong idea. Or they completely miss it. What’s really bad is, usually, we don’t think we failed on our end. "I made that as clear as I can. If they didn’t understand it, oh well." But is that the truth? Are we never wrong in our approach?

A personal example is Sarah and I. We’re actually pretty good at the communication thing for the most part. But every now and then, something gets read wrong. Now, when Sarah thinks I said something that I know I didn’t, we have a problem. Often times, the problem is not her though. Its me, and my reaction to the misunderstanding: "Why would you assume that? Did I say that?" etc, etc, etc. The problem arises when I react to her understanding rather than clarifying, or listening to her to make sure I didn’t say the wrong thing. It becomes personal, and I behave as though she misunderstood me on purpose. Really? Why do I do this? Honestly, I don’t know. But I’m working on it. This is a private example though. How does one deal with this same type of ordeal on a community level?

I started thinking about Biblical communication. I mean, does God’s word teach how to communicate effectively? Initially I thought, "Duh, it IS communication: God’s communication with us." So I thought some more, and I began to really feel as though I was missing something. Like the Bible held the secret to quality communication (instead of emotional bickering, or prideful challenging, or insensitive criticisms) and I was simply missing the greater message.

The story of the offensive altar in Joshua came to mind. Pretty standard example: people assume something without really asking, find out they’re wrong, and everything pans out in the end. Sounded like most great miscommunications. "Hey, did you hear what they did? That’s it. We’re going to war…oh wait, you mean? It didn’t mean that? Oh, my bad."

Then, for some reason I started thinking about the justifications. "See? People have always miscommunicated. Its just the way things are. 4000 years ago, people sucked at communication. Why did you think it would be different today?" I really thought about that. Can we compare ourselves to a story like the one in Joshua set in ancient Palestine? We have Blackberry phones, and MySpace, and facebook, and twitter, and texting, and emails, and podcasts, and unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling, and etc, etc, etc. We have structured our technology around the notion that people need to communicate more. We should all be communication gurus! "Yeah, but its just in people’s natures to misunderstand. No one can help it." Really?

There’s a story in the Bible that I think says otherwise. I had never thought about it from this perspective before, and this thought may be heretical or impractical or whatever. But right now, its got me thinking. In the Book of Jonah, this guy (who has some problems following orders) finds himself walking through the city of Nineveh, preaching about the city’s imminent destruction. He delivers an 8 word message, and 120,000 people repent! Now, that’s a pretty cool story in and of itself, but that’s not what caught my mind’s eye. After just one day of preaching, a city three days walk in size repents as one body. The king issues and edict, and people were already on it before that, and everyone gets the message.

120,000 people. 8 words. 1 day.

No communication problems.

So how is it that a body of people, say 100 in size, can’t communicate effectively about who is volunteering at 8:30 on Sundays instead of at 10:00?

I don’t have an answer to this. I can see the problem, but I don’t know how to help it. I do know this though, that while it is very frustrating, I have no room to complain or challenge anything because I am a part of the problem. I am not innocent.

In order to help communication, I must communicate better. I have to learn how to approach the people around me without walls up. I must learn to speak to them in a manner that does not raise their walls. And while learning all of this, I must maintain honesty. Perhaps this is an overcomplication. Or, perhaps I am really that disjointed from the community around me.

Oh well. Back to the drawing board.

One House

C.S. Lewis described Christianity like a house. He wrote that this House had a long hallway with a variety of doors leading off to different sides. Thinking like this, all Christians at some point stand in the hallway, and some stay there longer than others. But for most, there comes a point where we walk through doors labeled "Catholic" or "Baptist" or the ever popular "Nondenominational." Whether we care to admit it or not, everyone chooses a door. Because "it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals." Worship and fellowship happens in the rooms. Study. Rest. Life goes on in those rooms. In the hallway, we’re usually just passing each other by. This isn’t to say there isn’t merit in the hallway though.

…of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house.

Because we do share one common house. Not that there aren’t things upon which we differ, or issues which we take with certain styles, but none of that matters provided we are all living in the same house, built on The Foundation, that true and proper Cornerstone. We build our notions of church up on things we prefer rather than Truth.

And above all, you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and panelling…the question should never be: ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true: Is holiness there? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to move to this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike for this particular door-keeper?’

The first experience with Christ in this world was worship, and those who came to see God Incarnate did not care about the style or location. Worshiping the Christ overshadowed all of their personal preferences. And we forget that.

Crucial to living in the same house together is respect. Respect for those who have chosen rooms different from our own, and respect for those who are still standing in the hallway or just coming in the door.

If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.