Everyone loves a good educator—unless of course they happen to be unedifying and overly didactic all the time, even towards the waitress when ordering at a restaurant. “If you cook the veggies in such-and-such a way they will retain more of their nutrients.”(I may be guilty of that particular one myself). It seems that the chances of falling victim to foolish pride increases with the number of years one attends formal schooling.
In my sophomore year of high school I took “Electricity” as an elective course. The teacher was a brilliant electrician, but he did not have the capacity to teach. He wasn’t even capable of teaching someone how to tie their shoes. Having knowledge is one thing, but knowing how to convey that information to others is an entirely different matter. Over half of the class received an “F”, including myself. One fellow made an “A”, but his father was an electrician and had already taught him the trade. My apologies in advance, but I can’t help but convey to you this teacher’s name, because there is such irony in the fact that it too began with an “F”—Mr. Fink. That was really his name—I’m not making this up!
But again there is irony here because I actually did learn something from Mr. Fink: One way to not teach. His problem was that he was too far above everyone else to know how to teach it to us in a language we could understand. The man’s frustration caused his anger to flare up often.
In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m focusing on one pandemic problem that keeps any person from being able to convince, explain and teach what they know to others. It, of course is having pride in how smart we are. When we become proud in this area we will not even realize that we are communicating that fact to others. In their minds it sounds like we calling them stupid and proclaiming ourselves to be geniuses.
Prideful teachers usually already know all they ever will, because their horse is too tall for them to dismount and study the ground any further. They feel no need to dismount because they already know all about what’s down there, even when they don’t. To think another person, especially one with a lesser degree on the wall has anything of import they could pass along to them, well that would just be ludicrous. Even though they may never say that outright, that’s the way they make people feel.
It is for this very reason that some Christians make extremely poor evangelists. We can have not only an intellectual pride from what God has taught us, but we also could develop a feeling of spiritual superiority. We know our doctrine and have studied our bibles extensively. Perhaps we have been a Christian for a very long time. We have Doctorates in Theology for goodness sakes!—or, we’ve been teaching the bible for many years. I’m feeling the heat in this next one. We have a PhD from the Holy Spirit, just like some of the early disciples had.
I’ll never forget the time the Spirit taught me some fairly deep theology through an atheist. Well…if the water wasn’t deep at least he cleared up the muddiness a bit. I’m certain it was a lesson the Lord wanted me to learn well.
“I can use anyone as an instrument to teach you, pay attention.”—God
It’s odd how the more educated one becomes the more they seem to forget some of their common sense stuff and social etiquette. So here’s a checklist for us to use before witnessing to someone else, or teaching a class, or writing a post for that matter.
- Never stop being a good listener.
- Always be open to learning something new.
- God can use anyone to speak through!
- Try to learn the feelings that lie behind the other person’s beliefs. (There’s usually some past pain that shapes their thinking)
- Empathize with them, love them, and then lead by example.
Yes, pride of intellect can often play a huge role in skewing our testimonies. Pride causes us to not truly hear others. But it can also cause us to unknowingly give off signals that automatically switch our hearer’s ears and hearts to the off position. A very old adage fits this situation well: “They won’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
So let’s save the lectures for the classroom. Let’s actually feel what they are saying, and learn where their understanding and thinking is at. Let’s make room for their past experiences and care about their feelings. Let’s find some common ground and agree on that first. Then maybe buy them a coffee, and wait for the Spirit to show us an opening to love them into the truth.
FYI: When sharing the good news of Jesus a person must first know what the bad news is. They must first understand that we are all sinners and that the penalty is death, eternal separation from God. Then, the good news will sound as good as it truly is! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16