The rise of social media and what we in the technology industry call “Web 2.0” has had many side effects on our culture. Not the least of these has been the way that even Christian brothers and sisters have been treating one another.
Nothing will discredit a Christian’s testimony quicker than failing to heed James 1:19.
I am a part of many Facebook Groups and many that are exclusively Christian at that. It is embarrassing to see how we treat one another, and the world sees every bit of this.
Naturally, if they see us “killing our own young,” they will be much less open to engaging with us about these important issues.
In light of that, I believe that there are three steps that will help us in these conversations. My initial intent was to convey this in the context of unbelievers, but I believe they will work just as well even with your Christian brothers and sisters.
When there is disagreement (especially within the body), the Bible makes it clear how we are to engage:
Step #1: Understand Their Position
You know what–everyone sees the world a little bit differently. It is so easy to share ideas and convey to others what we believe that we hold almost nothing back!
But, are we making an effort to listen first to what they are saying?
Honestly, I’m preaching to the choir here.
Most of the time, the ideas and beliefs an individual holds seriously are formed because of life experiences that we may have no idea about.
Each month I am privileged to speak in our Jr. Church at Northwood to our bus kids. I can’t help but think to myself, I wonder what they experienced last week?
Many of them raise their hands for prayer requests–cancer, babies, sick family members, absent parents–and these are just kids! Experiences like this help them to shape what they believe about the world.
One of the biggest differences you can make in someone’s life is to simply listen to what they have to say. Remember–apologetics is not about arguing your point. It’s about pointing a broken world to the One person who can fix it–and will.
Step #2: Appreciate Their Resistance
While this sounds kind of abstract, this step is actually very, very practical.
Imagine that you are in an engagement with an unbeliever. At this point, they have already stated their position clearly, which in turn has given you the opportunity to do Step #1 correctly.
Your initial response and reaction to the problem they have laid out (which, in most cases, will end with a question) is what is in view here.
Let’s get real practical. Perhaps someone has just explained that they are confused about what they believe. They have been raised in church, but college has adversely influenced them and they are now torn between what they have learned at home and what they are being taught at school. They end with the question, “How can I discern who is telling the truth?”
An appropriate “Step #2” response might sound like this: “Thank you so much for that heartfelt question. I have talked with many in your position, and the answer is never easy, but…(finish argument).”
If you have done the first two steps right, you have no idea how much more likely you are to engage in a fruitful dialogue with this person.
You have demonstrated that you are (1) able to listen, without interruption, to their concerns and (2) able to empathize with their position, regardless of how different of an experience you have had.
Step #3: Respond with Integrity
Inevitably, the time comes in the conversation where you are likely going to be presenting an argument that you believe to be true and the person you are engaging with does not.
Obviously, you must defend your position–that is apologetics! But your response should absolutely be filled with grace, integrity, and love.
I am reminded of a quote by D.T. Niles that reads (loosely), “Christianity is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find the bread.”
That is so, so true.
The key to a response filled with integrity is that at one time, you were in the shoes of this person. You may not have been engaged in questioning Christianity like they are, but at the very least, you were lost without God and headed to a devil’s hell.
Showing anger and hostility towards a person who does not believe is never the answer. I think sometimes Christians find ourselves doing this because when the Spirit begins to reveal things to you, it becomes such an obvious choice!
To the Christian, choosing Christ is a no-brainer. This is why when engaging with skeptics, we must take heed to remember what it was like to be lost without God. This may be hard for those who were saved at a young age like myself, but we must pray and ask God to help us find a way to identify with those who don’t speak the same “language” we do.
Questions? Feel free to comment below and start the discussion, or click the blue button on the right (desktop only) to ask a question with a voicemail. We will do our best to answer in an upcoming post. Thanks!