To Listen and Love

Guilty as charged, I am a word junkie. I enjoy looking up words and checking out their nuances and meanings. Today’s word is conviction. Maybe it’s because my husband and I have been binge watching the law series Suits on Amazon Prime. Or perhaps I’m curious about how people are convicted of their beliefs about God. Mesmerized I listened this past weekend when Mount Pleasant Christian Church’s senior pastor Chris Philbeck interviewed a panel of nonbelievers as to why they don’t believe in the God of the Bible.

Merriam Webster gives three meanings for conviction. The first one listed—“the act or process of finding a person guilty of a crime especially in a court of law”—appeals to my strong sense of justice and my love for law and order TV shows.

The second one is more generic: “a strong persuasion or belief; the state of being convinced.” People’s convictions drive their actions. This afternoon I finished reading Bill O’Reilly/Martin Dugard’s book Killing Kennedy. Even though I lived through November 22, 1963, my nine-year-old, fourth-grade self didn’t quite understand what was happening.

When Mrs. Noel came back from lunch, our class couldn’t grasp the gravity of why our President had been shot and why she cried all afternoon. Then I had no idea why someone would do that. After reading this book, I begin to understand Lee Harvey Oswald’s convictions and his assassin Jack Ruby’s contrary beliefs.

My takeaway? Erroneous convictions can cause a great deal of pain, suffering and needless tragedy.

Finally comes the 3a definition of conviction: “the act of convincing a person of error or of compelling the admission of a truth.” Here is where we Christians sometimes dangerously park. Too often we forget that conviction cannot be forced upon someone, even if it’s based on truth.

After hearing the panel explain how Christians come across in their beliefs, I was convicted of not listening and loving enough. God gave us the freedom to either choose or reject him. Our God relationship is not an arranged marriage. It’s a union of choosing to love, with listening and loving being the best pathway in sharing our convictions about God.

“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. . .”

2 Timothy 2:24-25, NLT

An Eyewitness

In this era of fake news, history told by an eyewitness—someone who lived during a treacherous time—stimulates our minds and tugs at our hearts. Last week we experienced the 1930s and 1940s made relevant and alive when 97-year-old Walter Sommers shared his story. Al and I, along with our friends Anne and Larry, visited Terre Haute’s CANDLES Holocaust Museum where Walter is the docent on Wednesdays and Fridays (www.candlesholocaustmuseum.org).

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1920, Walter saw firsthand how Adolf Hitler rose to power. His parents witnessed their rights as citizens and business owners implode as the Nazis destroyed Jewish-owned businesses and homes November 9,1938, during the “Kristallnacht” or “Night of Broken Glass,” after which his father was imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

According to Walter, Hitler had developed his hatred for Jews during his teen years when a few Jewish youth were accepted into a Vienna art school while he was denied admission. Even though young Adolf didn’t have a high school diploma, which the school required, he still despised his Jewish counterparts for being admitted. That hatred grew as he did.

A month after his father was imprisoned, he was released with the condition his family would sell their businesses to the government and leave Germany. And so they did in January 1939, sailing to America guarded by Nazis. Ironically a few years later Walter would serve in the U.S. Army’s 77th Infantry.

Besides learning more about Holocaust history, I came home with a broader principle. An eyewitness verifies truth. Hearsay can easily become fake news. Because he experienced it, Walter’s story painted the truth about Kristallnacht.

Truth can be verified when it’s lived.

I’m asking myself what that looks like when being a witness for Jesus Christ.

 “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 NLT