Particular person talks with John Inazu on "Occasional Motive: Residing Faithfully in a World of Distinction" | The trade
Ed: What do you mean by uncommon ground?
John: Christians can and should be able to find common ground with others, even if we don't agree on the common good. However, it is surprisingly unusual to find common ground.
Ed: What does it mean to be a translator in today's culture who lacks a common Christian vision?
John: We need to adopt the good models from global missions in the 1980s (there were also some bad models) and realize that the mission field has now come to us. Think about how people would prepare for missions by learning a new culture, language and context. It is no different here. The people we want to reach may look like us and speak the same language, but we still have to prepare for the translation process in the same way, and that means knowing the people we deal with.
Ed: How do you think we need to behave or speak to interact with those we disagree with?
John: We should focus on people and relationships first, even if we find that they have ideas that we consider harmful or wrong. We have to see people as picture carriers, as other people who were created in the image of God. When we first work on relationships and get to know people, this opens up space to articulate differences and try to overcome those differences. People want to know that you take care of them and we have to do the slow work of building trust and relationships.
Ed: How does speaking with conviction and empathy help us discuss differences?
John: Our way of engagement is as important, or sometimes even more important, than winning an argument. I don't think the gospel calls us to victory. it calls us to be loyal. And sometimes that means we feel ineffective. But our attitude of loyal commitment reminds us to treat others as picture carriers. We should be known as people who are kind to others, who speak slowly, listen quickly, and choose our words carefully.
Ed: What are some biblical examples of how Jesus handled unusual soil?
John: Jesus routinely risked social condemnation for the people he met marginally – for example, the tax collector and the Samaritan woman. He would approach them and model compassionate engagement, even if the religious leaders looked at him with suspicion. But he was always faithful to who he was and that is important for us as Christians. We need to know who we are and what we believe in.
Ed: If you could forward a message, what would it be?
John: We should be the people of hope and trust and not the people of fear and worry. I am concerned that in many Christian circles today there is some kind of fear or fear narrative that causes us to behave differently than we could if we lived in the trust of the gospel. We know how the story ends and we know that we can trust the person of Jesus, and with that kind of hope and confidence we should lead the way to conquer a world of difference instead of responding out of fear.