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Reasoning Together

'Come now, and let us reason together,' says the Lord. Isaiah 1:18

Most of us are fairly confident about the sort of things that we believe. Unfortunately, it is often this same confidence that hampers us more than anything else in getting others to appreciate the same things that we appreciate. We often rush into stating what we believe, on the assumption that others will be convinced when they have heard what we have to say.

To be sure, some people will be convinced as a result of hearing what we have to say, but they will usually be people who were pretty close to us in other areas to begin with. Without some common ground and common experience, they are not likely to even hear what we have to say.

There is a phrase called "preaching to the converted", which is used to describe what happens in most churches each week. But it happens as much outside of churches as it does inside.

Even what I am saying in this article will not be well received by a lot of people, simply because their beliefs and experiences do not make them sympathetic toward such thoughts as are being expressed here. In fact, as most politicians have discovered, there is almost nothing that you can say which will not offend someone, and the more you say, the more people you are likely to offend.

So how can we overcome this obstacle?

Basically, we do it by spending more time listening. And as we listen emphathetically, we come to understand the "language" of the person to whom we hope to communicate. If we don't do that, what we say may be totally foreign to their ears, and thus it will be wasted.

In the passage quoted at the beginning of this article, even God himself suggests something called "reasoning together". If anyone has a right to inflict his beliefs on us, it is God... and sometimes he does. He more or less says, "Do it because I said so. I'm the boss and I make the rules." But he also calls for us to "reason together" with him.

The quote from Isaiah follows some outright commands: "Clean up your act! Stop doing evil! Learn to do good works! Relieve the oppressed! Defend widows!" (Isaiah 1:16-17) And it is followed by some strong words for the disobedient: "If you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured with the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it!" (Isaiah 1:20) Strong stuff.

But nestled in between these two authoritarian passages is the one about "reasoning together", and it includes these words: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

The Bible says that "charity covers a multitude of sins". And so, when we "reason together" with someone, we need to cover (or temporarily forget about) all of the things about them with which we disagree. We need to listen in such a way that we are prepared to see them in the best possible light. Though their sins be as scarlet, we must be prepared to see them as they see themselves. If we take the first step, then hopefully they will follow our lead and listen to what we have to say as well.

Because we are not God, and because our understanding is imperfect, we should be prepared for the possibility that our understanding of the truth will actually change as a result of the experience. But don't be surprised to see the other party changing ever so slightly as well.

And this is because, the more you get inside the head of the other person, and see things the way that they see them, the more effective you will be in communicating at least some of what you believe in terms that they can understand and appreciate.

It can be quite interesting to hear how other people think. If you ask genuine questions, and listen humbly to their answers, you will almost certainly increase your appreciation for how they think. It doesn't mean that you will agree with all that they say, but it means that you will grow in your understanding of them. Even if they do not hear a word that you have said, you will benefit from the experience.

I feel that the same thing could be done with our worst enemies and it would not be wasted time. If we would do it more with those we consider friends, then the results could be even more exciting.

So, in conclusion, we need to remember that over-confidence in our position on any particular issue can hamper us in being able to communicate that point effectively with others; whereas taking time to hear them out, even to the point where you start to see them in a better light, i.e. where you start to see how they see themselves, can produce better results.
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