“Let your reasonableness be known to all.”
That command is in the Bible, though you wouldn’t know it if you were surveying the American church today. We have forgotten it completely, and I don’t mean “forgotten” as in “rationalized away.” I mean legitimately wiped from church memory.
If you were to choose labels for what you see in Christianity today “reasonableness” would be nowhere near the top of the list. Outrage, bombast, extremism, polarity, partisan, sectarian, reactive, over-reactive, accusatory, judgmental, defensive, insulting, ignorant, fearful, hypocritical and others would likely come to mind first. If you wanted to find a more positive description you might go with well-intentioned, determined, or industrious. Of course no one of those terms, negative or positive, accurately sums up the church, but they would be higher on the list than “reasonable.”
Somewhere along the line – you can blame the Enlightenment if you’d like – we decided reasons equaled reasonableness. If we could defend an idea or an action then it was reasonable (even if the reasons were poor). Our hope, and much of our identity, rests in argumentation. And ironically this is often at the expense of being reasonable. Our arguments are loud, long, and aggressive. We “win” them with shows of force and pointed slogans. And we do make them known to everyone.
Real reasonableness is a blend of conviction and patience blended with some empathy and a willingness to engage multiple perspectives. “Engaging” doesn’t mean fighting; it means interacting with graciously. To be reasonable one must be able to stand firm and be gentle at the same time, to know what you believe but communicate it without any of the ad hominem or straw man foolishness so prevalent today. A reasonable person observes much, listens much, then processes and responds. He doesn’t react.
Underpinning all true reasonableness is a constant acknowledgment that God is God. Nobody who is trying to play God in any part of life can be reasonable. Instead we ought to have a confidence in God, in his sovereignty. Sometimes this looks like gritted teeth and a bitten tongue and other times it’s as smooth as butter and as sweet as honey. But no matter what, only by remembering that God is God can we love the unlovable, even our enemies (another forgotten command). If we rest in the reality that God is sovereign we are able to set aside our reasons and actually become reasonable.
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