I learned a new take on perspectives through the story of an anesthesiologist who claimed that God Himself was the first in her profession. If you questioned her, she would explain: in Genesis 1, God put Adam into a “deep sleep” in order to operate on his rib.
So, God was the first anesthesiologist. And through this unconventional take on God’s work in the garden, I began to consider the value of perspective—specifically the value of alternate perspectives. This question eventually took me to Ephesians 4.
In Ephesians 4:1-6, Paul exhorts the church to live together in unity because we are all one body. This emphasis on unity encapsulates the differences we have in perspectives; occasionally, those differences in perspective are on how to live out the Christian life.
For example, some churches differ on how often we should observe the Lord’s Supper. Since the Bible does not directly state how often the Lord’s Supper should occur, Christians choose to dwell in harmony despite their different opinions on the issue. Both brothers serve the same God, Who has saved them (Romans 14:3).
These kinds of differences are a strength of the church, for two reasons: one, they keep us from the danger of becoming stagnant, and two, they provide us with a variety of ideas.
First, alternate perspectives keep us from becoming stagnant. They don’t change the truth; they only refine our knowledge through defense of the truth. Not hearing these alternate perspectives leaves us in danger of groupthink. Christians should learn to love each other despite differences on how to apply biblical truth, just as Christ loved us despite our imperfection.
My brother or sister in Christ may have a view that simply annoys me. But this difference in view keeps me from making a wrong interpretation of the Bible and then never challenging that idea. What if the other view is right? As we all strive to discern God’s Word correctly, listening to alternate perspectives on that Word forces us to search the Scriptures to be sure of our beliefs. In Acts 17:11 the Jews of Thessalonica were praised for fact-checking Paul himself, who wrote Scripture, on doctrine.
Second, our differences also become a strength through variety of ideas. We have morals that are directly revealed in the Bible as right or wrong–such as God’s principle of the sanctity of human life ruling out abortion. But there are other issues that are not directly revealed in Scripture, such as how to go about fighting the sin of abortion.
Here is where our differences become our strengths. One Christian may be comfortable with running a crisis pregnancy center in opposition to abortion clinics. Another might not be able to do that but may believe directly changing the laws allowing abortion is the better way to end it. Neither perspective is wrong. In fact, both are ways to promote God’s principle of life. While differences in perspective may seem something we must learn to cope with, they may actually be a source of strength for the church as a whole.
And as we learn how to deal with differences in the church, we are prepared for dealing with differences in perspectives in the world.
Dealing with alternate perspectives in the church is inherently different from dealing with those in the world, because in the church we agree on God’s authority and truth. But the lesson of the two strengths of perspectives in the church can teach us valuable lessons on how we should deal with others outside the church.
First, learning to love our Christian brothers with different perspectives teaches us to love those in the world with vastly different perspectives. In the nonChristian world, there are a lot of perspectives, many searching for answers to life’s biggest questions, crying out for an audience. We are not here to give an audience to falsehoods; but we do need to point people to the Gospel, from wherever they are. Often the best way to start is to learn where they are, perhaps by listening to these questions.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:18-23 that he became “all things to all men,” so he could save some. He famously put this to use on Mars Hill, when he preached to the people of Athens using their own religion as a reference point. If we are to be wise in giving the Gospel, we need to know our audience’s perspective.
Second, we learn to discern what we can value in an alternate perspective and what is wrong. Some issues we simply may never have personally experienced, making it difficult for us to know exactly how to communicate God’s truth to someone with questions on that issue. Hearing the perspective of someone who has directly experienced an issue can be valuable to us in reaching out to that person with God’s truth.
In the end, learning to listen opens up doors to new ideas and new opportunities for the Gospel.