4 Tips for Navigating Conversations about Current Events
It’s a Sunday morning. Normally, my family and I would drive or bike the 10 minutes to church. But since the pandemic, we’ve started making the trek down to the basement for virtual church instead. As part of our routine, we have the grandparents over for lunch after service. Inevitably, talk strays from the sermon toward current events.
With sheltering in place and so many world-altering events happening right now, these intense, loaded conversations are becoming increasingly common for many of us. Yet doing anything else may sound better than talking about something so potentially divisive (any Enneagram 7s or 9s here?). But how will these national and global issues ever be resolved if they aren’t first acknowledged?
1) Making the Most of Opportunities
We must remember that our conversations—whether late-night discussions or lighthearted chats—have the power to change the way we view ourselves, each other, the world, and God. After all, the Bible is a God-breathed record of conversations and events.
The Apostle Paul writes, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15–16). Right now, many current events are difficult, challenging, and frankly evil. People could use a wise, life-giving perspective on these things. Our voices are vital and can help point others to the foundation of our opinions: Christ. We should be understandably careful with this opportunity, but it’s something we’re called to do.
Practically, this could look like addressing a comment made in class or at work or talking at home while washing the dishes. Jesus isn’t limited by our social setting and can work anywhere. We just need to be brave enough to step out and engage.
2) Checking Your Heart Attitude
A heartfelt drive to speak out against injustice and a lack of compassion is precious and very much needed in this world. But how do we do that in a loving way?
It’s a lot of little things that add up to a larger impression. We’re simply sharing another perspective. We shouldn’t expect or force others to adopt our beliefs. Judgment has no place in a meaningful conversation, and shaming someone won’t make him or her want to engage with you again.
The way we say something can be just as important as what we’re saying. Are we allowing passive-aggressiveness to seep into our voices? Are we focusing too much on how we think the other person should be acting instead of seeing where he or she is currently at?
I often catch myself going into a conversation with the goal of “winning,” trying to prove my point is the best. But coming from a frustrated position of “I’m very right; you’re so wrong” isn’t approachable. That’s not a conversation but a declaration of beliefs, no input necessary or wanted from the other person.
Like evangelizing, talking about current events isn’t about slamming people with facts in hopes that they’ll see the truth. It’s first about loving the person and seeking to understand his or her point of view. Love, patience, and kindness are fruits of the Spirit while anger is not, as James writes: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (Jas 1:19–20). I’m less frustrated when I go into a conversation with a posture of learning and openness. And I’m thankful that God has grace to fill in the spaces when I’m not always patient or gentle.
These gut checks can keep us from becoming preachy and help people feel more comfortable talking about these complicated topics.
3) Being Okay with Not Being an Expert
Please know that you don’t have to be an expert in a topic to start talking about it. In fact, being transparent that you’re learning, too, helps even the playing field. It’s no longer about defending or attacking viewpoints. But instead you’re on the same team, working to understand the situation and each other better.
Looking for other voices already in the conversation can also help. I’m not an expert on racial injustice, and I don’t want to pretend to be. There are far more knowledgeable authors and speakers who I can invite other people to explore with me and who can better meet them where they’re at.
After reading and digesting things together, there might not be an immediate attitude shift or dramatic change of views. That’s not a failure on your part; we’re just planting seeds. Above all, remember that Jesus is at work in the other person and you. The power to supernaturally open eyes and change hearts comes from him alone.
When Jesus is at work in us, this inward transformation should then inspire outward action. Jesus’ presence in our lives prompts us to act differently—not out of guilt but out of love for what he’s done for us.
We can be similarly motivated to action after we hear about a significant current event. As my mom says, “We’ll make time for the things we feel are important.” If we care about an issue, we’ll devote time to it. We’ll continue to have these conversations, to read, learn, and hear others’ stories.
Sometimes perspectives shift through one life-changing conversation, but it’s usually a slow and steady chipping away at false narratives. Many of us might feel like we’ve been shouting the same truths into a void for years. We’re weary. We need to replenish our spirits by spending time with God and finding people who build us up.
Ultimately, God knows our hearts. He sees and cares about issues affecting his children. We don’t struggle without hope. Remember what John writes: “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away . . . ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’” (Rev 21:1,4).
How comforting is it to know that one day our pain will be gone, and that the broken, old way of life will be replaced with God’s restored, perfect order. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
So the next time lunch conversations turn into a debate about current events, take a deep breath. Be encouraged to know that we are equipped to be world changers for Christ.
Our lives are being disrupted. We are forced to let go of things that have felt both normal and essential. In all this, God invites us to come to him, to be passionate about our love for him and others.