I Am Second Authors Doug Bender and Oscar Castillo discuss what it means to follow Jesus and still be someone who can listen, empathize, and admit you don’t always have the answers.
Doug Bender (DB): One of the topics that has been rolling around my head is the idea that following Jesus makes you someone who has all the answers. Or that it is our primary job to always speak because we have all the answers.
OSCAR CASTILLO (OC): When I see a person who is really yearning to always have an answer, there is a level of immaturity or a lack of perspective there. They are really comparing themselves to the wrong reference point. God is the one who knows everything. He should be our reference point. Humans are flawed by nature. Therefore, we need someone to come and share with us and give us the answers. In that humility, we learn.
When you approach a conversation or a relationship in the posture of “we are going to walk through this together,” that’s where the relationship becomes rich. That’s what we are missing a lot of today. You have people looking back saying, “You have to follow me because I have all the answers.” But the people with the best expertise are those who share what they know, but also can say, “I want to learn more.”
DB: If they are open like that, they will add to their knowledge. When you run into someone who doesn’t have that sense of curiosity, which I think is another version of humility, then whatever knowledge level you are at, you’ll never go past it. That makes you a less reliable resource.
OC: Yes. You become your own ceiling of learning.
DB: As I was thinking through this topic, I started looking through the Bible for answers. There’s a lot in there on this topic. But I found some great quotes in the book of James. There are some deep thoughts in there. I want to read some of them and get your thoughts on them. The first one is from James 1:19-21:
“Everyone should be quick to listen, but they should be slow to speak. They should be slow to get angry. Human anger doesn’t produce the holy life God wants. So get rid of everything that is sinful. Get rid of the evil that is all around us. Don’t be too proud to accept the word that is planted in you. It can save you.”
DB: What I love about this verse is that it actually ties the habit of not listening to the habit of anger. So those who don’t listen are the angry ones. I found that a fascinating connection.
OC: The Bible shows that anger can be used for good. It’s anger that’s directed well that can bring about change. But here’s the thing: whose justice are we looking at? Are we looking at God’s justice or our own? I think we can grow angry and then go about it in a way that is not godly. That word “sinful” is really the words, actions, desires, and intentions that are not in God’s character.
DB: And that quote even clarifies whose anger. It says “human anger does not produce the holy life.” And it doesn’t say don’t be angry, it says be “slow to anger.” Those are careful distinctions.
OC: This goes for all: we need to have a posture of learning. We need to have a posture of understanding one another. And our words very much matter.
DB: I have another verse that touches on what you have said. This is James 1:26-27:
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
OC: That’s so powerful. When you hear that word “religion,” you can go to different places. If you define religion as a set of beliefs, and then your words and your actions are not in line with that set of beliefs, that’s when religious people are just not effective at all. They are being inconsistent with their set of beliefs. If you say you believe “Love my neighbor,” but then when it comes to the actual outworking of that and there’s a disconnect, then it becomes “I am better than you,” rather than “I am with you and I am walking this journey with you.” Jesus epitomizes this. He knows it all. He is God and man. But he comes to our environment and walks with us.
DB: And the rest of the Bible expands on that. This verse lists “orphans” and “widows.” But Jesus and the rest of the Bible add to the list: orphans, widows, immigrants of all sorts, enemies—people that the culture around us hates or looks down upon, and basically any group that is disadvantaged of some sort. The Bible is quite clear here. If you don’t love these people, I don’t know who you are but you are not with us, you are not in this religion.
DB: I have one more verse. He talks to people who are supposed to have the answers. He says this in James 3:1-2 and 8,
“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check…But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
It’s a shocking verse because we often think the “deadly poison” is always the guy on the other side of the conversation. But actually what this is saying is that the “deadly poison” comes out of all of our mouths.
OC: That’s a reflection of what’s in our heart. Our words, our actions, desires, and intentions are a reflection of our hearts. So when the one who is life is not in us, then it’s poison that comes out. It’s not life giving, it’s actually death giving. We don’t want to be caught in that.
Join the conversation in the comments below. Have you ever been tripped up into thinking you have to have all the answers? What does it look like for you to listen more?