One of the casualties of our twenty-first century culture is our ability to engage in dialogue. Dialogue defined is simply the process of “engaging in an informal exchange of views.”
Whereas once we could respectfully “reason together” (to borrow a phrase from Isaiah 1:18), now there is hardly even the pretence of such. Dialoguing has been assaulted by party politics, by screaming TV and radio pundits, and by post-modern subjective values. Instead of truly listening to each other and actually giving one another the opportunity to exchange views, we loudly advance our perspectives, push our agendas and tolerate no dissenting voice.
Dialogue is dead. In its place is the diatribe.
But like all things- this is nothing new. Recall the episode which followed Christ’s healing of the man born blind recorded in John 9:1-34. The reaction of the Pharisees in this story is the classic assault on dialogue. They went into the discussion with a pre-set agenda; they asked questions, but did not like nor listen to the answers; they threatened and bullied; they accused and attempted to discredit and smear the people involved; and finally they claimed moral and intellectual superiority.
This exact scenario plays itself everyday in halls of our government, on national television and radio and unfortunately in our homes and churches.
Contrast this to how Jesus engaged in constructive dialogue with the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-42. Here Jesus gave this woman an opportunity to express her ideas and ask questions. He listened to her and provided appropriate answers. He shared with her his own different viewpoint. She listened. They engaged in a mutually respectful conversation and actually exchanged views. Numerous blessings flowed from this dialogue.
It is true that most of our dialogue opportunities will probably not realize that kind of result, but until we stop shouting and start listening- we may never know.