Improving Theological Discourse – My Neighbor is Not an Object

There are some circles where theological discourse is as healthy as ever while in other places people are rabid and vicious. Paul addressed this among the Galatian Christians in Galatians 5,

If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” (5:15).

Right before that Paul wrote this,

For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (5:14).

5:15 is extreme objectification of the “other.” It is treating someone not as a someone but as a something. You don’t bite and devour a someone. You bite and devour a something. When we begin seeing our “opponent” as an object we are willing to do whatever it takes to win. However, if we love our neighbor as ourselves, we will not be tempted to devour them because they are recognized for who they are.

Be careful that you don’t objectify the person you discuss theology and doctrine with. It is far too easy to do and it happens far too frequently. Instead, make sure you always see them as your neighbor. When you do, you will love them and when you love them it will be impossible to objectify them.

This is how we move ahead to have productive conversations together.

3 Responses to Improving Theological Discourse – My Neighbor is Not an Object

  1. Dwight says:

    Once again we are turned back to face ourselves.
    We were told by Jesus “Forgive us as we forgive others” and were shown the mercy we extend to others is the mercy God will show us.
    Then in vs.15 you should not bite and devour one another, because this places you on the same menu.
    It reminds me of the Cinnamon Toast Squares commercial where the eater eventually becomes the eaten. The only real escape is to get out of the bowl and not eat.
    We have to see the other person as us. The Golden Rule.

    • Mark says:

      Perhaps that is why many churches, but not the cofC, say the Lord’s Prayer as well as a general confession to remind everyone of forgiving others and that they had sinned. In the cofC, I was always told to forgive what was done to me but the person who committed the sin never had to admit their sin.

  2. Mark says:

    Thanks for mentioning this. Sadly, I found that a neighbor was only an equal person. For every group such as the de facto bishops, deacons, elderly widows, married couples with children, etc., neighbors were their personal friends and/or fellow leadership colleagues. Neighbors were never people of lesser stature. Thus it was acceptable to not discuss anything with or even listen to a person beneath them as the lesser did not have the rights to free speech. Sadly, I never heard anyone say anything to an equal about what (s)he had just done or said to a person of lesser stature.

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