Monday, November 22, 2010

Building walls

I talked with a woman once, not too long ago, about different social programs being offered in the schools.  She was explaining how many programs and services have been cut from her school system because of budget cuts.  She talked about how they really need the community to step up and offer some of those things, because it's the kids who are suffering.

And then she mentioned that churches sometimes offer.  But she wasn't too excited about that.  She perceived that the churches that had been coming into her school had an agenda and that it isn't really appropriate to have that kind of thing going on in our schools.  Unsaid were the feelings that were clearly on her face--a skepticism, a feeling of manipulation or agenda.

It struck me then that this might be the only experience this woman has with people who call themselves Christians.  All she knows is that these people with their own agendas come offering services, but that it's not really free.  It comes at the cost of being subjected to their opinions and ideas.  And immediately, a stereotype must form in her mind, one that begins to put all Christians in that category so that she has a wall up to any sort of spiritual discussion from acquaintances.

I don't know if you've ever experienced those walls, but I do all the time.  Talking about faith becomes a very delicate thing.  It's so easy to inadvertently add to those stereotypes or to make people feel judged or like objects of conversion.  I've done it before--never on purpose, but I know that I've made people feel that way.

So what do you do to keep from adding to someone's walls? 

The only thing I know to do is to be quick to listen and slow to speak.  To be quick to serve and to love, and slow to give my own opinion about what you should do or believe.  That doesn't mean that I never share from my heart; but I try to be led by the Spirit about what I say, and I usually wait until I'm asked.

What do you think?

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