“God put it on my heart to come over and speak to you.” And so began a conversation with a young woman. A close friend and I had been enjoying a casual conversation and coffee/tea date at our favorite coffee shop. We were talking about LOVEboldly, about the pending anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation at the Ohio General Assembly—HB616 and HB454 to name only two—and some of the advocacy work we have both been involved in lately. We were also catching up and enjoying the sun, blue sky, and the generally happy feelings of spring. Thelma approached us, sunglasses, phone, and iced coffee in hand. For a moment I thought she had overheard our conversation and wanted to voice her support. Alas, she wanted to tell us how a “literal translation” of the Bible says that “homosexuality is a sin.” We tried to engage her in conversation, but she wasn’t ready to listen to our thoughts. Ultimately, one of the shop’s staff members came over and asked her to leave.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus demonstrates a preference for dialogue whether with his friends around a table or with people who wanted to challenge and test him. The Gospels, like Socrates’ various dialogues, were written to make a point and provide hero of sorts who would never lose a debate. We don’t know, therefore, if there were times that Jesus struggled to make a point or had someone stubbornly hold their ground in the face of logic and divine reason.
I, too, love being in dialogue with people, particularly those people with whom I disagree. Yet, I’m realizing that successful dialogue is based more on preparation and understanding than it’s based on the ability to fully articulate and defend a particular opinion or thought. The young woman at the coffee shop thought she was doing God’s work of exposing our supposed sin and we wanted to engage in a robust dialogue bringing in theological, historical, and sociological approaches to understanding the Bible in context (the young woman was adamant that theologians were “great,” but we just needed a “literal translation of God’s word). That conversation was not going anywhere and thankfully the shop’s employee stepped in.
With whom are you in dialogue? With whom should you be in dialogue? With whom are you sustaining conversations which are not dialogues?
Let us pray: God, who spoke and the world was made, give us the grace to speak with courage and kindness to those with whom we disagree. Lead us in honest dialogue and open our ears, minds, and hearts to ideas with which we struggle. Empower our listeners to engage similarly with us. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Blessings, friends, on your week! Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.