Many years ago when training for sales with a Fortune 500 company, we were challenged to put our skills learned into practice through a rigorous and often embarrassing exercise called Bull In The Ring.
You were placed in a chair in the middle of the room surrounded by your peers who tossed one objection at you after another for any and all situations they chose to select. It was in this arena that I began to learn I had a skill-set inside of me that could handle adverse situations just like my time in Viet Nam as a Marine. Little did I know at the time that God was preparing me for hearing objections about him and how to handle the fears and objections that those to follow would have.
Yesterday we had two fantastic addiction recovery meetings, the first being me and just 3 men. One was of Hindu faith, one was openly gay, and the third was a Latin-american who followed Jesus. The words spoken during that meeting are private but as a summary they were heartfelt stories of faith or lack of it and the reasons why we had gotten in trouble in the first place. I listened as they spoke, and I heard the pain, and I understood.
Often our judgement goes before our listening (quick to listen, slow to speak/James 1:19), our solutions before their stories, our answers before their questions. The key to understanding others is to understand why they have objections or pain, or sorrow, and to listen with compassion and an open mind, not with answers before they finish.
Our objective should not to be smart or right, but to be the hands and feet of a God who does have answers to every question or objection, and to provide a pathway for conversation that leads to possibilities of developing a faith that works. Loving people who are not the same as us, or who have the same beliefs (Matt 5:43-46), are the meaning of the words of the man who became the proverbial bull in the ring for all of us, not just some of us.
He overcame the objections of the world by who he was, by his words of wisdom and by his actions, all of which were designed to reconcile us to God. He pointed the way, to some they understood the point, others did not, but he in his loving, compassionate way made the point, letting the point sink in, and allowing us to choose.
I just love being in that chair, especially the ones that swivel around to understand others!
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.