As humans living in a complex and diverse world, we often find ourselves surrounded by people who hold different beliefs and values. This can make for some interesting conversations, but it can also be a source of conflict and discomfort. As a Christian, I sometime find it can be especially challenging to talk to friends who have different worldviews. I want to be respectful and open-minded, but I also want to stand firm in our own beliefs.
Let me share a quick story.
As a non-denominational Christian man living in America, I never imagined that I would one day become good friends with a Muslim man from Egypt I met online. But that's exactly what happened when I hired Al to work with me on a computer programming project. Al was the head of computer science at a well respected university in Egypt.
As we worked together, we started to chat late at night in between our sessions, and eventually, we began to talk about our faith. At first, I was hesitant to share my beliefs with Al, and I wasn't sure how he would react. But to my surprise, Al was open and interested in what I had to say, and I found myself becoming more and more comfortable talking about my relationship with Jesus.
In turn, Al shared his own beliefs and spoke about the importance of Allah in his life and the role that prayer played in his daily routine. As we continued to talk, we began to realize that even though we had different beliefs and practices, we both shared a deep love and reverence for God. In fact Al prayed 5 times a day faithfully. I respected his commitment. It made me wonder about my own commitment to my faith.
And then, something amazing happened. We both realized that we worshipped the God of Abraham. Despite the differences between our beliefs, we both traced our faith back to Abraham, the father of monotheism. It was a moment of clarity for both of us, and it made me realize that we weren't so different after all. I started thinking about my Jewish father and Al my new Muslim friend. It dawned on me that the family tree had a split. Just like when my parents divorced. I joked with Al about his lineage of belief was well documented in the bible as the tale of two mothers. I followed Jesus via Isaac and Jacob. He followed Solomon via Ismael and Ishaq. My dad followed Isaac and Jacob but felt similarly about Jesus and Al did. Could it be that satan just wants us fighting over details to distract us?
As we continued to work on the project, we also continued to talk about our faith. We discussed the similarities and differences between Christianity and Islam, and we both felt that we had a lot to learn from each other. Despite our different beliefs, we respected each other's faith and appreciated the unique perspectives that we brought to the table.
Al explained to me that he prayed 5 times a day.
Over time, Al and I grew to be good friends. We looked forward to our late-night conversations and enjoyed learning more about each other's cultures and traditions. We both felt blessed to have met each other and were grateful for the opportunity to work together.
In the end, our friendship was a testament to the power of understanding and respect. We were able to learn from each other and grow in our faith, despite the differences between our beliefs. And it all started with a chance meeting on a computer programming project.
So, how do we navigate these conflicting worldviews? Here are a few tips that have worked for me:
Listen with an open mind: When we're talking to someone who holds different beliefs, it's important to approach the conversation with an open mind. Listen to their perspective and try to understand where they're coming from. Don't immediately dismiss their ideas just because they're different from your own.
Ask questions: Asking questions can be a great way to keep the conversation going and to show that you're genuinely interested in what the other person has to say. Ask them to explain their beliefs or how they arrived at their conclusions. This can help you understand their perspective better and can also help you find common ground.
Share your own perspective: While it's important to listen to others, it's also important to share your own beliefs and values. Don't be afraid to speak up and share what's important to you. Just be sure to do so in a respectful and non-judgmental way.
Look for common ground: Even if you and your friend have very different beliefs, there may still be areas of common ground. Look for these areas and focus on them. This can help to build a sense of connection and understanding, even if you don't agree on everything.
When we approach conversations with people who hold different beliefs, it's important to try to see the person beyond their label. This means listening to their unique perspective and experiences, and acknowledging their individuality. It also means recognizing that people may hold different beliefs for a variety of reasons, and that these beliefs are often deeply rooted in personal experiences and values.
By seeing the individual rather than the label, we can also find common ground more easily. This is because we are able to focus on the unique qualities and experiences that we share with others, rather than getting caught up in our differences. By finding common ground, we can build connections and understanding, even when we don't agree on everything.
It's also worth noting that seeing the individual rather than the label doesn't mean ignoring or downplaying differences. It simply means recognizing that these differences are only one aspect of a person's identity, and that there is so much more to each individual than their label. By acknowledging and respecting these differences, we can engage in meaningful conversations that lead to greater understanding and empathy.
In my own life, I've had many conversations with friends like Al in Egypt who hold different beliefs. Some of these conversations have been challenging, but many have been incredibly rewarding. I've learned so much from listening to others and have been able to share my own perspective in a way that feels respectful and authentic.
Of course, navigating conflicting worldviews is never easy, and there's no one "right" way to do it. But by listening with an open mind, asking questions, sharing your own perspective, and looking for common ground, you can engage in respectful and meaningful conversations with friends who hold different beliefs. And who knows? You may even learn something new along the way.