Some Christians will beg to differ with the above statement. They will argue that there are people who will always get offended and accuse us of being unkind when presented with biblical truth. And, since truth should not be silenced, they will insist that we ought to declare it regardless of the responses or consequences. While there may be some truth to that argument, there is also some danger. Compulsive convictions can lead to radicalism which, if not dealt with appropriately, can transform into extremism, sometimes violence.
Bible-believing Christians believe that the hope of the world is found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. However, nowhere in Scripture are we encouraged to proclaim this message through revolutionary means. We must be careful that our preaching and defense of the truth are not done with selfish legalism. Otherwise, it can and will have adverse spiritual effects.
Sadly, we live in a society and culture where people confuse honesty with speaking their minds without regard to diplomacy or the feelings of others. In other words, confronting people belligerently just to satisfy a haughty spirit is more important than having an honest open-minded, and mature dialogue. Even some Christians today behave in this manner when debating non-believers and sometimes each other. That attitude is just wrong and NEVER justified! Scripture is VERY clear on what our conduct should be towards the world and the church alike.
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always FULL OF GRACE, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone,” -Col. 4:5-6 (NIV)
“Rather, speaking the truth IN LOVE, we [the church] are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” -Ephesians 4:15 (ESV)
The world is full of resentful, offensive, selfish, and uncaring people. The last thing it needs is “loving” Christians sharing the Good News with emotional and verbal bludgeons. In an effort to reach a world that is sinking deeper into spiritual darkness, fire and brimstone witnessing is as ineffective as low-tech warning signs. Plus, it can actually close doors that would otherwise open if judgmental pious zeal would be replaced with empathetic and compassionate grace.
But what about exposing false doctrines and immoral agendas? Aren’t we called to do that? Yes, but according to Paul in Eph. 5:11, exposing the evil deeds of darkness is to be done with the light (God’s word). We are not called to use that light as a laser beam to the eye in order to reprimand each other let alone accuse the world who already stands condemned (John 3:18). The word of God has enough power to rebuke, convict, and save. It doesn’t need us to crack the whip after it has been declared.
Do you know why the bible says that some plant the seed (of the Gospel) while others water it, but the sprouting part is left to God? Consider this – Natural germination occurs when combined elements (soil, water, oxygen, and adequate temperature) create a process that involves powers beyond our human capabilities. Likewise, when it comes to spiritual germination, only the supernatural power of GOD can cause the seeds of truth to grow in the hearts of those who receive and respond to it. God, not us!
Furthermore, Scripture teaches us that it is the Holy Spirit who convicts the world of its sin when they hear the truth (John 16:8). But how they respond to the truth sometimes depends on how it is delivered. Remember, it’s not WHAT we say, but HOW we say it.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” -2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV)
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…” -Romans 1:16 (NIV)
“And the Lord’s servant must not be QUARRELSOME but KIND to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with GENTLENESS. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.” -2 Timothy 2:24-26 (ESV)
If our motives are right, then the truth, although it may hurt and infuriate, will be presented with appropriate sobriety, humility, and never with arrogance and harshness. This doesn’t mean we have to sugar coat it to avoid antagonistic confrontations. On the contrary, we need to declare it boldly and forthright without camouflaging it. Otherwise, we would be guilty of preaching an unhealthy and false doctrine that promotes conformity instead of change.
“Having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” -2 Timothy 3:5 (ESV)
“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.” -2 Timothy 4:3 (NIV)
But again, PRESENTATION is the key. Perhaps we can learn something from professional culinarians who can turn a delicious but rather unappetizing dish into an appealing and desirable delicacy. The two dishes below consist of the same foods and nutritional values but have been prepared and presented differently.
Fish, rice, shrimp, plantains
And what about those who are consumed by hatred and whose sole purpose is to challenge and oppose everything biblically moral? How do we deal with those? One of King Solomon’s proverbs states that “a gentle answer deflects anger” (Prov. 15:1). This is a piece of powerful practical advice (not a promise from God) for diffusing heated exchanges. However, it doesn’t always work. I myself have been a witness to that. Yet, may I suggest that if our intention is to reach people with the truth while keeping our emotions well-tempered, then we should be able to face opposition, share the message, and peacefully walk away (without regrets) if the encounter turns into a futile debate. However, if our goal is solely to win an argument with a contentious person then we might as well avoid the encounter altogether. There will always be people who don’t agree with and therefore contend against biblical values. Some even get a kick out of instigating quarrels. These are people who are driven by a hostile and rebellious spirit. And because rebellion is in the same category of sin as witchcraft, its consequences are not to be taken lightly. For that reason, it would behoove us to avert such confrontations altogether.
“The one who has knowledge uses words with RESTRAINT, and whoever has understanding is EVEN-TEMPERED.” – Proverbs 17:27 (NIV)
“Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights.” –2 Timothy 2:23 (NLT)
“Before you argue with someone, ask yourself, is that person even mentally mature enough to grasp the concept of different perspectives? Because if not, there’s absolutely no point.” ~AmberVeal
Finally, since the Truth is what ultimately sets the captive free (John 8:32), everyone needs to hear it. But, not everyone will be in the right frame of mind to listen and/or accept it. We do not know what conflicting issues some people are dealing with in their lives. Most cantankerous and depraved behaviors stem from a hurtful/dysfunctional past (lack of love and moral influence, abuse, etc.). And sometimes these hurts are buried so deep that an offensive response is just an automatic defense mechanism. Therefore, in order to help people break free from the bondage of rebellion we need to regularly immerse ourselves in the presence of God (His word, prayer, worship) and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in sharing and defending our faith. Going about it with the right attitude is crucial to the effectiveness of our approach, not only with the unsaved but also with new believers, including those seasoned Christians who should know better. So, unless we are unequivocally led by the Holy Spirit and not our religious passion, let us abstain from engaging in a conversation/debate if maintaining equanimity proves to be difficult. In other words, let us speak/respond kindly or remain silent and pray instead. If it’s God ordained, He will make a way and regardless of the outcome, it will be according to His will, not ours.
“We who are strong in faith should help the weak with their weaknesses, and not please only ourselves.” -Romans 15:1 (NIV)
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with GENTLENESS and RESPECT,” -1 Peter 3:15 (BSB)
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him with a spirit of GENTLENESS. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” -Galatians 6:1 (BSB)
Pray that the Lord would give you boldness to proclaim the Gospel, but also commit to studying his word so that you may have sound answers to questions about your faith. Pray also that He leads you in the power of the Holy Spirit so that your words and attitude are seasoned with true love, heartfelt kindness, and genuine concern for the souls of those you engage with.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” –Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)
“My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, consider this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover over a multitude of sins. ” -James 5:19-20
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” James 1:19 (ESV)