Whether it was believing false claims on both sides of the EU referendum, or developing a mistaken certainty that Trump would lose based on your social media bubble, 2016 was characterised by large groups of people jumping to rash conclusions based on very little evidence.
But that’s not what the Bible teaches us – both the Old and New Testament are all for asking considered questions, listening carefully to the answers and acting accordingly. Some of these lessons might just be the way to avoid the same mistakes in 2017.
Take your time
In James 1:19, James implores early Christians to“be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”.
A great case study for someone who hasn’t followed this advice can be found on President Trump’s Twitter account. Incredibly reactive, angry posts include: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” (Nov 2012) or: “I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct. Instead I will only call her a lightweight reporter!” (Jan 2016).
It might have won him the vote, but it won’t help the world. Don’t tweet like Trump in 2017.
Ask considered questions
When Jesus was walking along the road to Emmaus after his resurrection (Luke 24:13-32), he asks the disciples: “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” When they question whether he knows the things that have happened in Jerusalem over the last few days, he replies: “What things?”
At first glance, it could appear that this is part of Jesus’ mysterious stranger disguise. But, in fact, these carefully worded questions encourage the disciples to give their account of events, and then to gain understanding as Jesus rebukes them. Questions invoke discussion, and discussion allows their eyes to be opened to the truth.
While in Athens (Acts 17:15-34), Paul debates about Jesus and his resurrection with philosophers. But he doesn’t mindlessly spout his opinion like a jumped-up Facebook poster. He empathetically observes their belief system and amends his argument accordingly: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship – and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”
Let yourself be interrupted
As Jesus leaves Jericho (Mark 10:46), he hears Bartimaeus shouting: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!” The crowd tells the man to shut up, but Jesus stops, calls the man over, and asks: “What do you want me to do for you?” He then heals Bartimaeus’ blindness.
Day to day, it’s so easy to ignore calls for help if it interrupts our mission for that particular moment. These can be literal cries for help – the homeless man on the corner – or much quieter: the sighs of our stressed colleague. Sometimes it’s more important to humbly de-prioritise our own activity. Jesus stopped to listen. So should we.
Don’t mistake silence for passivity
In Psalm 13, David feels like God is distant: “How long God? Will you forget me forever?” When we pray, it can feel like God is silent; like He’s not listening or doesn’t care.
But in faith and in life, it’s a mistake to equate silence with not listening – in fact, silence can be one of our most powerful tools. You know when Louis Theroux leaves a long pause? That’s because he silently wants his interviewee to open up more, to fill the silence with a deeper version of what’s on their heart.
In this psalm, David realises this, trusting in God’s “unfailing love”. In 2017, there will be times to emulate this – listening in silence to work out how to demonstrate our unfailing love to the world.