A few years ago I began a coaching relationship with a young pastor. With about fifteen minutes left of our introductory call the conversation took an abrupt turn.
“Dave, could I ask you a question?”
“What’s your theology?”
(Keep in mind that I have about fifteen minutes left of our phone call.)
“Well, that’s a pretty big question. I don’t know that we have the time for me to explain to you what my theology is. I bet there’s something specific on your mind, something that’s important to you. If you want to ask me specifically about that you can but to tell you the truth, I’ve never been asked that question before by a pastor I was coaching. Why is this important to you?”
“Well,” he said, “I don’t want someone counseling me who does not think the way I do.”
(I’m glad my friend could not see my face because I’m not that attractive with a dropped jaw.)
“Well let me explain that I am not going to be counseling you. Coaching is different than counseling. I have no desire to talk about any differences we might have theologically nor to change you over to my way of thinking. When I coach pastors, theological distinctions between us never come up.”
“Oh, I see, I guess you’re right. Sorry.”
I was surprised by how much my friends words, “I don’t want someone counseling me who does not think the way I do.” saddened me. I couldn’t help but think what this young pastor was poised to miss out on if all he ever did was surround himself with people who thought the way he did.
If I have decided to be a learner then everyone and everything becomes my teacher.
William Temple (Archbishop of Canterbury 1881-1944) said, “In our dealings with one another let us be more eager to understand those who differ from us than either to refute them or press upon them our own tradition.”
You can learn a lot when you are willing to explore outside of your own group. Your group is made up of people who think the way you do on important political, societal, and theological issues. What concerns me is how some (not all, but some) Christians and how some, (not all, but some) pastors respond to those they disagree with, belligerently refuting them and attempting to press upon their brothers and sisters in Christ their own position. There is no humble, respectful, teachable, open-minded dialogue that represents genuine interest in learning the perspective of the other person. Our opinion-door is closed, locked tight, and has pinned to the outside a sign which says “Do not disturb. Trespassers will be shot.”
I doubt that any of us will get 100% on our theology exam when we get to heaven. I wonder if in heaven all the issues we strongly disagree about will be cleared up? I wonder if we will care? Imagine the heavenly scene…
“Hey, I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Nothing. Did you hear that the apostle Paul is gong to be giving a lecture at two titled ‘Who was right and who was wrong’?”
“Yeah, wanna go?”
“I think I’ll pass. Besides, the prophet Daniel is giving an introduction to the four beasts, and I don’t want to miss that.”
Don’t be afraid to learn from those you have serious disagreements with. Everyone has something to add to our faith if we are willing to look, listen, and learn. And it is at that point, where we allow our lives to be enriched by someone we disagree with, that our hands are joined together rather than separated and forming fists.