Over the last few weeks I’ve observed (or participated in) a number of discussions on hot topics. In almost every conversation, there comes a point at which the art of effective argument disappears and comments become personal attacks instead of rationale and fact. It’s a sad thing to see that often opportunities for mutually beneficial discourse give off more heat than light.
All too often, the sad state of affairs is that Christians (not exclusively, but frequently) tend to define themselves by what we’re against. Killing unborn babies. Homosexual relationships. The refugee crisis. We sure can be vocal when it comes to that which we find immoral, unjust, or otherwise against our ideologies. But where’s the good in being known by what we oppose? How does that display the love of Jesus to a world that so desperately needs him?
In The Curious Christian, Barnabas Piper writes
Christians are to live lives marked by love – to as 1 Corinthians 13 puts it believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. This means we are to be defined by characteristics of grace. We are to assume the best of people and offer them the same hope and patience and mercy we know we so desperately need. We are to offer them second and third and fifty-fourth chances. In short, we are to exude the love Jesus poured out on us.
However, assuming the best of people doesn’t mean that we pull the wool over our own eyes. We have been given God’s clear, inerrant Word as our moral guidepost; the lens through which we see the world, the means by which we are saved, and the exact how by which we are called to live as members of the family of God on earth. We can be sure that in its pages we find everything we should be; simultaneously we also find a lot of things that we shouldn’t be.
As a student attending a seminary made up of students and lecturers of differing persuasions on what would be classed as “secondary issues”, that journey included much more than beginning to grasp the content of the bible and learning about the tools we use to rightly read and apply its demands. (side note: my learning is far from over) I witnessed the art of conversation and the importance of approaching the beliefs of another with humility and respect. For another person to share their opinion is a privilege, and learning to listen well is the least I can do. Not listening in order to respond, but listening in order to learn. I’ve graduated now, but every day I’m reminded of how little I really know and that my convictions – no matter how strong – have zero influence on the posture I should take towards another person opening up to me.
The gospel promises to change lives. As followers of Christ and lovers of this gospel, we should be people who are mission-minded; our posture being one that desires to display the same humility that Christ modeled in his incarnation. If our attitude indicates that Christ makes no difference to how we live or how we treat others, we immediately undermine its credibility. Ultimately, our goal is not to win arguments, but to see people come to know Christ.