Read Acts 17
Focus on verse 11
Honest discussion is fast becoming a lost art. Honest discussion and disagreement is how we learn from one another. If I choose to surround myself entirely with people who agree with me all the time, we will all stagnate in our self-absorption. On the other hand, when someone with a different opinion challenges my ideas, it provides opportunity for me to see things from new angles, even if I choose to disagree. When we interact with people who see things differently than ourselves we all gain the opportunity to grow, but only if we learn how to discuss our differences with grace and respect.
In the book of Acts so far we have consistently been reading of the opposition the Apostle Paul faced when explaining this new understanding of who Jesus really is to the Jews as he traveled from synagogue to synagogue. In most cases they tried to silence him, in extreme cases they plotted to kill him. When he reaches Berea he finally encounters a different response.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (v. 11)
The Bereans listened to what Paul said, then studied the scriptures themselves to verify whether it was true, and then responded in accordance with the truth that they discovered. This is a good example of conversational interaction that has the potential to be beneficial to both parties. The text does not describe the exact interaction, but I suspect that if the Bereans had discovered any issue of which Paul was teaching that was incomplete or incorrect, Paul would have listened to them and learned from them as well.
This is such a contrast to the manner of the Jews who opposed Paul in some of the other cities he had visited. Most often the response Paul received was that they made no effort to validate what he said, they simply dismissed it as heresy and used whatever means they could to silence him or drive him out of town.
This is very often the same rhetoric that one finds on social media posts these days. They are not designed to engage people – they are designed to malign or destroy people, with little consideration being given to whether or not the matter being presented is true or not. In the view of those doing the posting – truth is of little consequence to them – all that matters is that they contradict or if possible shame the people who oppose them into silence.
Perhaps we could all learn a little from the Bereans whether we post on social media or visit in the coffee shop; when we hear something that sounds new, we do the research, validate it and then respond accordingly with dignity and respect. If more of us chose this path, perhaps it would make our world a more pleasant, and perhaps even safer place to be.