Difficult Discussions

If it surprises you that Jesus would disturb people to the point of them wanting to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:14-30), you may have forgotten that that wasn’t the last time people attempted to kill him. You also may have forgotten the last time you had a difficult discussion with people you love and respect. It’s easy to dismiss some talking head on television as an idiot or mean-spirited or whatever when all they are to you is a caricature of a position with which you disagree. It’s far more difficult to let go of a strong word or criticism or different point of view when it’s someone with whom you spend time, work or worship alongside, share vacations or even homes. The closer the person is, the deeper the comment is felt and the longer it lingers.

Jesus’ stirred up great emotion in the people of Nazareth because they belonged to each other. His home folk certainly overreacted, likely in ways they would not have had Jesus been some anonymous traveling preacher.

There are exercises Jesus and his friends from Nazareth might have gone through to lead them to a better outcome. We might keep these in mind for our next difficult discussions: 1) They could have assumed that what motivated each other’s positions was a desire for faithfulness, rather than faithlessness (as in assuming the best intentions of the other); 2) they could have actually listened to one another, rather than looking for the first opportunity to interrupt and rebut (hearing the words, but not searching the meaning); 3) they could have put themselves in the other's position and tried to make a case for it, as a way to see his perspective. Even when we disagree with another position, understanding how someone could get there is a way of showing her respect and growing our appreciation for her understanding.

We follow Jesus, so we’ll recognize that, for us, he was going to end up with the best position in the argument, whether they did these exercises or not. Even so, we follow Jesus alongside other faithful followers who, at times, we won’t celebrate as having the best position. There are bound to be difficult, hurtful, maddening conversations when we are close with other followers. Keeping these exercises in mind might help. Beginning and ending from a place of generous mercy and love certainly will.