A mom I know recently told me the story of a conversation she had a few years ago with her daughter. The daughter was unhappy, complaining bitterly about one friend, then another. Finally the mom wisely said, "You know, you are telling me about all the problems between you and all your friends. While I understand that everyone does and says things that hurt others at times, the one constant between you and your friends is you. Could it be that the really problem is within you rather than them?" The daughter grew silent. The mom wait, concerned that maybe she had said too much. Finally, the daughter responded in a way that showed her understanding. She had never before considered that she might be the center of all her problems. Her mom's courage to tell her helped her get her attitude straight and change her relationships.
I love stories like that. What that mom did was "speak the truth in love." She took a risk that her daughter might just add her to the list of people to complain about. She had no control over how the daughter would respond, but she said what she needed to say, hoping for the best.
If you follow Jesus, one of your responsibilities it to have spiritual conversations with those who don't know Him. Most of Jesus' followers, at least in our part of the world, make a fatal mistake. They choose either truth or love. Truth without love is abrasive, rejecting those who don't fall lock-step into line. Love without truth feels nice and comfy at first, but forces even the deepest friendships to a surface level when it comes to things that matter.
Is there a way that we can have rich, meaningful conversations with those who don't believe and conduct them respectfully? Is it possible to talk about the big questions of life, even risking disagreement, but do so with such kindness that we maintain our friendships? It must be, because Christians through the centuries have been doing it. This weekend at Stone Ridge Church we will talk about how to ask great questions and open up meaningful conversations with our broken friends. If you can't attend, catch the podcast here.