One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”
He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
Luke 20:1-4 (NIV)
One of our friends is a marriage and family therapist and over the years he’s commented on multiple occasions about the fact that Wendy and I meta communicate better than any couple he’s ever counseled. In other words, we communicate about how we’re communicating. Wendy and I don’t find this to be strange at all. We were both communication majors in college and theatre people by passion. We think about how things are being communicated all the time.
One of the things I love about Jesus is that He was a brilliant communicator. In today’s chapter, we find Jesus in Jerusalem the week before His execution and resurrection. He spends His days teaching in and around the Temple and He has stirred up a hornets nest of socio-political conflict. The crowds love Him. The religious leaders who control the Temple racket want Jesus rubbed out, but are afraid of His popularity and the potential political backlash if they move too quickly against Him. In an effort to publicly discredit Him and tarnish His popularity in the polls, the religious leaders send several waves of spies to try and trip Jesus up and provide them the ammunition to discredit the young rabbi.
But, Jesus (who had once claimed “I am the Word”) is a brilliant meta communicator. He sees through the questions coming at Him and immediately recognizes who is behind the question and what they are trying to do. So, Jesus applied a series of defensive communication strategies. First, He refuses to answer a direct question with a direct answer. Instead, Jesus responds to a question with a question and catches the chief priests in their own trap.
Wendy and I have noticed in recent years that our society and culture have slowly lost the art and ability to have honest, sincere conversations with people of differing opinions in an effort to explore ideas and opinions. The more polarized we become politically, socially and spiritually, the more our we find conversations are actually interrogations:
- “Do you think homosexuals are going to hell?”
- “Do you believe the Bible is the inerrant and infallible word of God?”
- “Don’t you believe a woman should have a right to do what she wants with her body?”
- “Are you a Democrat or a Republican?”
- “If a woman eight months pregnant is murdered, is it one homicide or two?”
- “Do you really think a hunter needs an uzi?”
In my experience, questions like these are not typically asked with the honest intention to openly explore issues of life and society with another person, but instead are asked to trap the respondent into a corner from which the interrogator can easily label him or her. “Oh, well she’s obviously a [conservative, liberal, religious nut job, whacko, gun nut, feminist, misogynist, Republican, Democrat, homosexual, homophobe, and etc.]”. Once labeled, we find it easier to dismiss other people and their thoughts, words, beliefs, opinions, and person.
Today, I’m thankful Wendy and I enjoy a diverse group of family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances who represent a broad spectrum of thoughts, experiences, ideas and opinions. I’m grateful for those who show me love and respect despite their differences with me, and I want to follow Jesus’ command to tangibly love my enemies (which includes perceived enemies of thought, opinion, beliefs and politics).