Jesus Christ made a very profound statement that was recorded by Matthew, “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?” Borrowing from the spirit of His words, I would say, “If you communicate only with those who agree with you, what reward do you receive?” It seems as though I read once of how someone said that your knowledge will be limited if you only surround yourself with those with whom you agree.
11 years ago, I entered the pastorate and boy was I in for a ride. Up to that point, I could always fall back on “my own” pastor when I was cornered by a question or a belief I didn’t fully understand or know the answer to. Being the pastor, I had no one to fall back on, except of course the Holy Spirit. I must say at this juncture that many and I mean “MANY” rely on the counsel of a man, yet refuse to admit such…at least in so much as they agree with him and he with them. Anyways, the church I was voted into was not necessarily of the same doctrinal teaching as I was accustomed to, therefore a few hurdles lay before me. The which I will not disclose here, needless to say I had my work cut out for me.
The position I was placed in brought strain upon my own spirit, as I struggled with some things. One of those early struggles was the education I was receiving concerning the fact that people (in general) do not always mean what they say. In fact, a lot of what people say is simply sentimentality and not sincerely believed. One thing in particular is, “just tell us the truth preacher.” Sounds good, right? At least until you do so. Paul once wrote, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” The truth, I have since learned, is much of the time relative. That is, relative to whom you are speaking to or in this case preaching to. You learn real quick when you’ve hit a sore spot with people, maybe something they’ve been taught their entire life or something they have simply believed for a long time, yet not studied out for themselves. Absolute truth, even amongst professing Christians is somewhat of a mystery.
All that being said, if we are ever to gain a wisdom that is effective for the cause of Christ, we must humbly receive knowledge from some of the most unlikely sources…such as sinners perhaps or maybe even someone from a different religion. Some of the best education in grace and humility I have personally received has come from people I disagree with and still do today. “Why engage,” you may ask? Well, to be Christian is to be “Christ-like,” right?” If we look into the gospels, do you know what we will find? Christ sitting with the Pharisees/Sadduccees on multiple occasions. He didn’t agree with them, yet He sat with them and debated, meaning He spoke as well as listened. Luke recorded that when Jesus was 12 years old He was found, “…sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.” Who were these doctors? These would be such men as He would frustrate and anger 18 years later when He began His ministry of reconciliation.
Jesus was, in fact, God in the flesh. He was and is the omniscient, almighty God, so what profit was there for Him to listen to anyone of whom He disagreed? It was an act of grace. Something many, in the church, seemingly do not have a clue on how to exhibit. You see, sitting with those we constantly agree will only yield one side of wisdom, but there is another side. The side I speak of is the side of listening. I’ve known, too many who are full of words, but have little experience actually listening to someone else, even if they do agree. Many times I’ve sat in a room with multiple preachers, only to watch how they each try to speak over each other, actually saying the same thing, but in a different way.
In conclusion, Paul wrote to young Timothy, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Make sure you know what “you” believe and are persuaded beyond measure, by God, before you enter into any discussion with someone from another religion. Be assured of what you believe regarding the basic tenants of the faith. Once you are assured you are steadfast in what is absolute, then yes, I would encourage anyone to engage in healthy discussions with those whom you disagree, but do so respectfully. Always be in prayer and continual study of the scriptures. Who knows, by humbling yourself to gain a knowledge beyond your own, you may gain an effective wisdom that could aid you in winning a soul from false teaching.