LAST month the oldest institution in Australia celebrated its 200th anniversary.
It wasn’t a bank or a footy club, but the Bible Society.
They didn’t celebrate with cake, but with a creative campaign.
One element of which was the source of considerable controversy recently.
It was an attempt to demonstrate how it is possible to have a light discussion about a heavy topic.
I don’t want to pontificate about the topic they picked, their choice of partners in this project, or the politics involved.
But I do heartily endorse the approach they were trying to model.
Their approach was based upon a verse from the Bible which is particularly pertinent for our times.
It came from James 1:19: ‘Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger’.
Too often we see discussions of big issues descending into shallow debate.
Little more than demeaning and demonising accusations hurled back and forth.
How refreshing it was to see two people, (politicians no less) respectfully sharing their ideas whilst genuinely listening to each other.
The real foundation of this kind of conversation is found in following Jesus’ call for us to love our neighbours as ourselves.
As Jesus with His discussion with the lawyer in Luke 10:25-37 showed.
This includes even those with whom we have the deepest disagreements.
Despite our differences, irrespective of our ideals, we are all fellow human beings made in the image of God.
It is only in respecting others, and in seeking to understand them, that real conversation and change is possible.
So whether it is in public debate or private conversations, whether discussing weighty topics or just deciding where to go to lunch with your family, may you follow the advice of James and keep it light.
George Hemmings, Christ Church Anglican, Echuca