I think Maggi Dawn’s reflection on Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal raises an interesting point. Sometimes we let others set our agenda, because we are so keen to disprove their doubts, to show them the power of God at work.
As I type this I’m listening to an interview with Richard Dawkins on Radio 4. I used to share a house with some friends who were scientists, atheists and great fans of Dawkins. They were also intellectually curious, as was (am!) I, and we would spend hours discussing, arguing, debating matters of science and faith. Then one day I remember yelling in complete exasperation (I forget about what!) “But it’s not about that. It’s about LOVE!” There was a long pause. “Is it?” asked my friend “Tell me.” We never convinced each other of anything, but I felt that suddenly I was talking about what matters.
It is a great temptation to try so hard to listen to others, to understand their point of view, that we let them set the agenda completely. We become frustrated that there is no room left for us to say what is really important. It’s a tricky balance to strike – listening to others without being swayed by their agenda away from God’s agenda for us.
I struggle with this in some of the schools I work with, which have an ethos which seems completely at odds with the gospel. I have a colleague who thinks I should try to be more accommodating of the ethos of the school. I feel that I ought to be speaking out against it, and subverting it where I can, to get us back onto God’s agenda. In truth I suppose elements of both approaches are needed.
I seem to have wandered a long way from the topic tonight, but there we go. Setting my own agenda, I guess!