If someone’s behavior or opinion seems completely absurd to you, you could tell them they are wrong or even idiotic. You could tell them they should stop thinking that way and see things your way. Or, on the other hand, you could start by trying to understand their perspective. You could ask them friendly questions about their point of view. Actually, this is not only good advice, it is an imperative for Christian living. Here is why you need to try to understand other people’s perspectives.
1. You might be wrong and they might be right.
In Acts 17, Luke contrasted two groups of people, the Jews in Berea and the Jews in Thessalonica. I’m certain both groups of Jews were diligent students of Scripture, but what made the Jews in Berea “more noble” than those in Thessalonica was their willingness to listen to another perspective about Scripture. The apostle Paul came to each city and preached a brand new idea. One group disagreed and refused to even listen to Paul’s differing perspective. But the Bereans listened eagerly, comparing what Paul said to Scripture “to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
We ALL assume we are right about what we think. When we hear something that differs with our opinion, we say, “I disagree!” But we need to learn to say, “Tell me more; I want to understand where you’re coming from,” because it may turn out they are right and we are wrong.
If we are going to be people who learn and grow, we must stop looking to win arguments and start looking to discover truth.
2. You need to love your neighbor as yourself.
Loving your neighbor as yourself means “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12).
- Don’t you want others to take time to hear you out?
- Don’t you want others to try to understand where you’re coming from?
- Do you appreciate when people write you off before they understand what you’re saying?
Let’s treat our neighbor the way we want to be treated. Let’s try to understand where they are coming from; if for no other reason than that’s what we wish others would do for us.
This doesn’t mean you have to accept their position as being correct. It doesn’t even mean you can’t try to change their mind. But it does mean you recognize it is NOT loving to try to persuade someone before you even understand them. Strive to understand before you strive to be understood.
3. You need to know what is (and isn’t) honorable in their sight.
In Romans 12, the apostle Paul was explaining what it looks like to live in step with the gospel. He was explaining how Christians are to treat one another, their neighbors, and even their enemies. In verse 17 he says, “give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” That is a command that would totally transform our lives, if we would let it.
The phrase, “give thought” means to “consider in advance.” It is forethought. Paul says we need to consider in advance “to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” In other words, give forethought to how our actions will be perceived by other people. How in the world can we give forethought to that unless we first understand our neighbors’ point of view?
In order to be a person of truly Christian conduct, you MUST find out how other people think. You must try to see things through their eyes. You must try to see yourself, your words, and your behavior through their eyes. This is the only way you can “live peaceably with all” (vs. 18).
It might be a cultural issue like “Black Lives Matter.” It might be a political issue like which party or candidate to support. It might be a religious issue like how to worship. The question is, do you really understand the other perspective? Have you sat down with people who hold that point of view? Have you just listened? Have you said, “Would you explain this to me? I really want to understand.”
I see Christians doing this all the time, trying to understand other perspectives. They seek to understand before they seek to be understood. But I also see a lot of people arguing without really understanding the other perspective. Unfortunately, I’ve participated in that and I’m sorry. I want to do better. How about you?
I love you and God loves you,