There was a quotation which had an enormous impact upon me. Having said that, I should qualify it by admitting I don’t recall its original author, nor am I completely convinced I’m repeating it precisely as I received it. Nevertheless, the quote went something like this: “I will hear you, though I might be changed.”
The author is acknowledging a risk which is present when we honestly put forth the effort to listen. If we truly are open to the thoughts and ideas of someone else, if we take in their words with sincerity, there is a chance we might discover truth in what they are saying; in other words, we might be converted to a new way of perceiving or being.
I raise this because the Christian church has not always been adept at listening. We are excellent at proclaiming. We put forth our views with clarity and certainty. That’s not a bad thing. Yet when we receive a response which varies from our own particular stance, we close up both our ears and our minds so we will not be influenced by another point of view.
There once was a time when the church spoke and it seemed as though the whole world listened. Those days are gone. Our words are often seen as irrelevant in the conversation today. We might have only ourselves to blame. No one likes to dialog when the other party chooses only to preach.
How do we have conversation across congregational or denominational lines? How do we effectively present our points of view to those who don’t share our faith and with those who profess no faith at all?
A proponent of Christian evangelism once said to me, “If you want someone to hear you, you must listen to them. You must be every bit as open to being converted as you want the other party to be.”
At first that bothered me. I didn’t want to sound unconvinced or tentative in regards to my own beliefs. Over time I came to realize I don’t need to live in a bubble and I don’t need to protect God. If my faith can’t hold up to someone else’s questions and observations, then it just might need to be modified. Sure enough, through the years my faith has undergone some transformation (I like to think that I’ve grown). Nevertheless my faith remains strong and I suspect that willingness to honestly engage in dialogue has had a very positive effect on my growth. It has also allowed others to listen to me.
I will hear you, though I might be changed. There is risk in those words. Yet I am convinced that here lies openness to growth and the seed of true evangelism.