The last few weeks and months have been a very interesting time to be alive. It’s been a very strange time with people on two sides of an issue slinging mud at each other. We’ve had different approaches to the Coronavirus, to lockdown and church services, to BLM, social justice and to the President of the US. Some of the discussions I’ve seen have been good and helpful whilst others haven’t been. In all of this it’s tempting to simply listen to those we agree with. But I don’t think that’s wise.

It’s natural for us to flock to people who are similar to ourselves. We go toward those of a similar age, similar hobbies, similar politics and beliefs. It is the normal thing to do, but I don’t think it’s helpful.

If we surround ourselves only with voices who affirm what we already think we’re not going to be challenged or grow. We need those around us who can make us tighten up our thinking. We need those around us who can challenge us when we’re set in our ways. We need those around us who can see and call out illogical patterns of thinking.

There are core things that certain groups should agree on. For example, you expect members of a church to have the same understanding of the gospel. You expect every Christian to believe in the physical resurrection of Christ.

But I’m not talking about those core things, but more about secondary issues or even things that are not to do with church. Having friends of a different political persuasion can help you see flaws in your own thinking. Having people who you might not agree with on everything stops you being surrounded by ‘yes men’.

This also requires us to not take ourselves too seriously and be willing to listen to other opinions. Listening to other voices with differing opinions can also help us know how to defend our own.

For example, I hold to believers baptism, but I have worked for a Presbyterian church. That was a great experience which helped me understand the paedobaptist position, but it also helped me know how to argue my position better.

Listening to a variety of voice means that we’re aware of the thoughts going on outside our own minds and it enables us to grow.

This inevitably means that conflict is easier to arise, so when listening to others we need to remember that our convictions are not necessarily prescriptive for every Christian. This means that we need to watch our speech about others of differing opinions and stances and remember that we’re brothers and sisters in Christ.

Christians are not called to be robots who all do things a certain way or hold the same convictions on everything under the sun. But we are called to care for one another, to build each other and to be a community of people who live for God’s glory.

Listen to various voices. Do not surround yourself only with those who agree with you. Instead, learn from others, discuss with those who you know you won’t agree with. Read books by those who are sound on the key things, but who you might see differently on others.

Listening to various voices means that you’re more likely to grow and encourage growth. Don’t get stuck in the spiral of voices that only affirm all the time. Don’t sacrifice growth on the altar of comfort, but instead go towards those who are different from yourself. The church is a wonderful place where people who would never normally mix can sit together and sing from the same hymn sheet. Our convictions, our beliefs should all be based on the Bible and our desire should be for God to be glorified.

Don’t surround yourself with those who only want to affirm and puff you up, instead learn and grow by listening to various voices.