At some point in the course of every news cycle these days, it seems as though someone is demanding that we “have a conversation” about one of the many problem issues plaguing our nation these days. As we watch the failure of so many of the resources we’ve trusted for most of our lives, we long for some course of action to be initiated that can actually lead to resolution and restoration of peace and harmony. Issuing a call to have a conversation doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence that anything positive or beneficial will come out of it.
Having a conversation may sound like a rational course of action when there are such entrenched oppositional positions, but it doesn’t always lead to the grand solution envisioned by those who suggest it. In many cases, it turns out to be little more than a tactic designed to create a platform from which to deliver intractable demands and non-negotiable ultimatums. That’s especially true when the call to “have a conversation” regards some highly controversial and divisive cultural issue. In the real world, “having a conversation” is not an end in itself. Those highly touted “conversations” can prove to be nothing more than an exercise in frustration and futility, and my first inclination has been to consider them worthless. But before we throw the baby out with the bath water, maybe there’s more to consider.
Not a Unique Time ~
We may think these are the worst times ever, but we aren’t the only people confronted with problems that seem insoluble and divisive issues we can’t seem to resolve. God’s people have found themselves overrun with violence and confusion again and again. They have cried out for God to do something, to unfold some miraculous redemptive response and deliver them from the source of their misery. His response was a call to have a conversation. The prophet, Isaiah, reports God’s invitation and makes the anticipated outcome clear:
Come now, and let us reason together, Says the LORD, Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18 (NKJV)
And God repeats His call for a conversation again:
Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you– The sure mercies of David. Isaiah 55:2-3 (NKJV)
A Dead-end Conversation ~
Talk can be fruitless and even lead to exacerbating the problem. Resolution depends on more than conversation. I learned that in my early approach to disciplining my children. I decided at some point that I was going to approach the distasteful task with a systematic, well thought out set of procedures. We were going to sit down and talk through whatever the problems were and when the children clearly understood all the issues and objectives involved, discipline would turn out to be the kind of positive thing that God intended. It didn’t take long to discover that my droning on and on wasn’t leading anywhere.
I recall, for instance, when my oldest daughter, who was about 7 at the time, had earned the opportunity to participate in my debut of what effective, modern parenting should look like. I had barely begun to deliver some of my best illustrations and most convincing admonitions for ensuring successful, godly living when she torpedoed the whole thing. I was less than halfway through when she lifted her head and rolled her little eyes up toward the ceiling. Then she heaved an exaggerated sigh, and said, “Dad… couldn’t you just beat me or something and get this over with?”
Conflicting Definitions ~
In order for a conversation to reach an agreed upon solution, it must begin with an agreed upon definition of what the real problem is. From my point of view, the problem with my daughter was her behavior, and the solution required a change in her conduct, but from her perspective, the problem was a rule she didn’t like, and the solution was to change the rule. The Apostle Paul reported a similar experience and made it clear that all of us find ourselves in a similar quandary (Romans 7:1-25). He considered himself to be okay until he was confronted with the Law of God When the Law showed up, he was hopelessly condemned, and no amount of talk could change that. Something much more profound would have to take place if any resolution was to be achieved, and that has always been the ultimate objective of the conversations that God calls us to have with Him.
The problems we face individually and as a nation are not just political, or ideological, or financial, or religious. The root cause of all human pain and grief is our rejection of God’s principles. Simply said, it’s our sin that stands between us and the abundant life God planned for us. If the call for a conversation is to lead to resolution, it must begin by having a conversation with the only One who can produce workable solutions. All national sins have their origin in the individuals who either commit them personally or allow them to flourish in the culture around them. In light of that, I would add my voice to the ones incessantly calling for a conversation, but the conversation needed is not another fruitless political dog and pony show. We need to have a one-on-one meeting with God first. That meeting is going to begin with His reminder that the problems we face have grown out of our rebellious, sinful behavior. Opening the door toward real solutions begins by simply admitting that.
A Conversation with Hope ~
When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the price for every infraction of every rule and suffered the pain of every foolish decision we will ever make. Now He stands waiting for a personal conversation with each of us. He’s ready to forgive our sins and lead us to all the good things God envisioned for us from the beginning. So when we hear some voice on the news demanding that a conversation be held to address some insurmountable problem, let’s answer that call by meeting with the One who wants to have a conversation with us every day, and who is never overwhelmed. Maybe if enough of those conversations are held by enough of us, we’ll see an amazing transformation that will spread throughout the nation.
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