by Joshua Bixler
James 1:19-20: My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
There is no telling how much important information is missed when planning a military operation or training event because Soldiers are more focused on speaking their thoughts than listening to the words being spoken. Unfortunately, this occurs with Soldiers of all ranks, and many times it happens due to ego more than mere inattentiveness. To be honest, I have been at fault for this multiple times in my military career, and I still have to struggle at times to keep it at bay.
Whenever my ego takes center stage, I try to make the conversation about me and what I am contributing, and it is easier for me to take offense at the merest of slights. When I or other leaders do this, it is harmful to the planning of the event and to the morale of the Soldiers in the unit. It causes us to miss key information and we forget that everyone can contribute something of value to the conversation.
If we are honest with ourselves, many of us suffer from being too slow to listen, speaking too quickly, and easily being angered. All one has to do is to look at the toxic conversations that occur in a Facebook feed over a post that involves politics or religion. Everyone is so focused on proving that they are right and that everyone is wrong, or even worse an idiot, that no meaningful conversation or change occurs. All that happens is that the people involved in the conversation build their walls even higher to keep those of opposing views out.
The Bible states in Proverbs 18:19: An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars. As we start the holiday season, we may be inevitably involved in conversations that involve religion and politics. We can assertively stand up for God and what we believe is right without destroying relationships. If you have “won” the argument, but pushed the person further from God and the truth, then what have you truly won?
When responding to what the greatest commandments are, Jesus says in Matthew 22:37-40: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all of your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” The last verse bears repeating. Jesus said that all of the “Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
People can be frustrating, especially when they believe the opposite of what we do. Yet, we are called to love them. If we are too busy winning a pointless political argument that isn’t changing anyone’s minds and just serving our ego, are we loving our neighbor as our self? Jesus didn’t call us to go out and make Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, pro-vaxxers or anti-vaxxers. He told us to make disciples. Our job is to go out and bring people to him, and trust that God will change their beliefs and heart to where it needs to be.
As we all go into another holiday season, let us all pray that God opens our ears, slows our tongue, and slows our anger so that we can bring more people to Him
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