How to Navigate Conversations in a Polarized World
Trying to navigate a conversation towards the gospel without stepping on a political or emotional landmine takes forethought, skill, and care.
It is more and more challenging to have a conversation these days. It feels like there are two Americas split down political and ideological lines. Many are passionate about their beliefs and suspicious of the beliefs of others. Even a word as benign as “mask” has now become a political “hot button.”
This has also made it more challenging for believers to share the gospel. To make matters worse, terms such as “Christian” and “Evangelical” now have political overtones. However, believers are still called by God to share their faith, even in this polarized culture.
Here are some thoughts to consider when trying to navigate conversations:
Don’t let the media harden your heart.
Christians need to be careful about watching or listening to too much news and political commentary. The reason is, more times than not, that what you feed your mind is what you slowly become. If the news is labeling people, we begin labeling people. If commentators use derogatory language to describe those with opposing viewpoints, we tend to do the same.
I am not saying to stop being informed. I am recommending monitoring your intake of news and politics. A good way to do this is to compare how much time you are watching the news to how much time you are in God’s word. Are your thoughts centered on Christ or the latest news crisis? Do you spend more time talking about politicians and platforms or Jesus?
Too much news can also change our outlook and countenance. When our eyes are on the latest news-generated crisis rather than the Lord, it affects our outlook and obedience and serves as a great distraction to the Great Commission.
Paul’s words to the Philippians come to mind, “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:6
Don’t wear your political opinions on your sleeve.
I understand that some of us have very deep and passionate opinions and convictions about politics and culture. However, sometimes we can get “trigger happy” in conversations, ready to fire off our opinion about a subject at any given moment.
The Psalmist asks God in Psalm 141:3 to, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!”
We need to carefully construct a grid to filter our unchecked opinions, particularly around non-Christians. Be sure to check with the Lord before you say something controversial or political. Don’t burn the bridge before crossing it with the good news.
Get to know the person regardless of their political positions.
Given the polarization today, it is tempting when meeting others to try to determine where they stand on certain issues. The mindset is, “Are they are our side, or the other side?”
When meeting and interacting with others, we need to look past the politics of the person. Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.” This did not mean he agreed with everyone, but that he was willing to lay aside differences for the sake of the gospel.
When talking to non-Christians, rather than finding points of disagreement, look for points of connection. These may form the basis for a friendship and a chance to share about Christ.
Practice the lost art of empathy.
When you do find points of disagreement with a person, practice empathy. Empathy does not mean you necessarily agree with the person or their point of view. It does mean you have taken some time to see the situation, issue, or viewpoint through their eyes.
Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
Let’s not be foolish in conversations. Learn to empathize before you criticize. When you do disagree, do so with kindness and respect.
Remember that God meets people where they are.
One of the most remarkable things about Jesus, as opposed to the Pharisees, is that He was willing to engage with people right where they were, just as they were. This is how He encountered Zacchaeus (Luke 19), the woman at the well (John 4), and a host of other people in Scripture.
As His ambassadors, we need to do the same. Are you willing to engage with anyone to reach them with the gospel? Are you willing to go beyond political agendas/beliefs to get to know the person?
God met us right where we were to bring us to Himself. Are you willing to meet people where they are and as they are to introduce others to Him?
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