Everyone is a teacher in some capacity in life, whether or not you get paid for your services. Whether it is parenting, tech support, customer service, counseling, medicine, law, sales, or preaching, there is some element of instruction that takes place as we interact with each other. Two-way communication is a necessity to ensure that what we want to convey is received and understood.
Whereas very few would disagree with my premise, when it comes to practice and application, people tend to engage in monologue rather than dialogue. By placing more emphasis on what they have to say, rather than striving to make sure they are understood, two-way exchange often is sacrificed. What results can be a false sense of satisfaction that our point has been made. In order to have true instruction occur, feedback from the listener is vital.
Let’s say you are eager to have some parents change their perspective when it comes to the education of their children. You could approach them armed with all the data that shows that students from Christian day schools or homeschools achieve higher test scores. Or, you could cite the crimes and anti-social behaviors that are prevalent in the state schools. After delivering your “speech” you might be dumbfounded that these parents continue to send their children to state schools. The problem, of course, is the monologue approach. Without making use of perceptive questions and listening to the answers given, it is easy to “miss the boat” when it comes to unearthing parents’ biases and presuppositions.
Or, suppose you want to convey to your children the necessity of knowing God’s law and how to apply it in their lives. You could teach or lecture them on what you want them to learn, but if they are not asking questions and discussing the material with you, you haven’t succeeded in penetrating past the most superficial layers of their understanding.
For those of us who teach as a major aspect of our daily lives, it can be a temptation to say what we wish to say and assume we have done our jobs. However, a teacher who is not open to questions will diminish the potential success of the learning experience. Some are hesitant because they might not know the answer to a specific question. Trust me, this is a good thing. You can always say in honesty, “I don’t really know, but I will do my best to find out.” This elevates the teacher in the eyes of the student rather than demeaning him.
No one knows everything, but we do know the Source who does. When we presuppose that God’s law-word speaks to every area of life and thought, there is no reason to shy away from questions or challenges. What’s more, as we grow in our sanctification, earnestly pursuing the understanding and application of God’s law, we ensure that there will be fewer times that the answers to questions posed will evade us.
Christ engaged in this kind of interchange with His disciples, being willing to receive their questions. His method of discipleship involved a steady dialogue in order to train them to be useful in His Kingdom. Even the Word of God tells us to ask, seek, and knock, inviting us to interact with the triune God. We’d do well to imitate Him as we interact with others.