Have you ever seen one of those guys at the fair who draws caricatures of people? If so, you know that they will take your biggest features and exaggerate them. Sometimes we do that with other people in how we view them and the assumptions we have about them. It can be hard to talk about these things because instead of actually talking about the issues and the scriptures involved in loving and kind ways (you know, those old fruits of the Spirit?) some would rather paint a caricature of the other “side” rather than be fair with what they have to offer in the conversation. It is easy to draw up straw men. It is easy to ignore the good the others are doing. It is tempting to ignore the commonality in a rush to condemn the parts we vehemently disagree with. I think it is important to start with commonality and work out from there. When you start by dissecting fine tuned differences it is easy to be hostile and it is easy to get defensive.
Legalists often paint a picture of progressives that they have no respect for scripture (and yet most are making their points with scripture). It is often said that progressives don’t care about obedience when that is just not the case. Progressives often paint a picture of legalists as backwards, stagnant, unevangelistic, arrogant, etc. It is easy to throw up smoke screens in order to obfuscate and confuse rather than deal with real people on real issues in loving and respectful ways (you know, ways that actually might get us somewhere).
Drawing a Fair Picture
The way an artist draws an accurate picture is by using their senses. She has to look very closely to details and then make a fair representations of what she sees in that individual. It would be weird to sit down for a skilled artist to paint your portrait and after sitting for a dozen hours over a week, they turned it around and you saw a generic portrait. You would wonder who they were looking at because it obviously wasn’t you. Sometimes I feel that way in discussing these things with others…When they respond to what you tell them, you wonder who they were listening to when you were talking because it obviously wasn’t you. It feels like we are all talking but no one is really hearing the other very well because we are passing them through generic filters that don’t actually represent what that person actually believes.
As we move ahead, no caricatures. Listen. Be willing to learn. Be humble enough to admit when you are wrong. Praise the other person for seeking God. Find commonality. Don’t be afraid to use scripture and use it fairly (not just as random proof texts). Draw a fair picture of those you are having a discussion with. To do any less is intellectually and relationally dishonest.