When was the last time you were in an argument? Who was it with? What was it about? Did you win? Lose? Draw? Did the person arguing with you persuade or even sway you to their way of thinking? Even a little? Be honest–did the title of this blog pull you in? Even a little?
Arguments have a way of solidifying for each side that they’re side is right and the other side is wrong. Dead wrong. And even if you could shoot them in the neck with a syringe full of truth syrum, they’d probably never admit that they were wrong. Pride won’t let them. No, from what I’ve seen arguments do one thing really well: build walls that weren’t there before and thicken walls that already exist.
I saw a license plate recently that made me chuckle. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry, I’d have followed that person to wherever it was they were going and done my best to strike up a conversation with them, testing the accuracy of their claim.
When you find yourself in an argument with someone, you’re on a battlefield whether you realize it or not. It might be over something seemingly small, or it may be over something enormously huge. No matter what the issue, its present enough to spark a fiery exchange.
I’m fascinated by people who don’t agree with my viewpoint. In fact, I’d say they’re some of the most fascinating people I interact with. But I’ve also been in dialogue with those who seem to agree with Mr. License Plate over there; as if once they find out my worldview and my connection to Christianity, well, its “go” time. They’ve got an ax and they’re looking for a place to grind it.
But I don’t see anything in Scripture that tells Jesus’ followers to do any amount of verbal sparring with those who aren’t following Jesus. I don’t see any mandate that calls us to “Go therefore and win arguments.” Why? Because Jesus knew (shocking, I know) that people aren’t argued into a relationship. They’re LOVED in. When the apostle Paul said “Make the most of every opportunity…”, some people read it as: “Make the most opportunities” and take the Holy Spirit’s job away from Him; He’s the one who calls (1 Cor. 12:3), He’s the who softens hearts, and who convicts of sin (John 16:8-11). Not us.
Instead, Jesus’ followers are instructed: “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)
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not one for mamsy-pamsy, milk-toast, easy-believism, I’m-okay-you’re-okay-we’re-okay-that’s-okay kind of wallflower follower of Christ either. It’s just that I don’t see Jesus calling His followers into arguing His Kingdom. If you want to take it a step further, you might want to check out the parable Jesus told about the “Wheats and the Tares”. Jesus advocated for leaving the weeds to grow up among the wheat until harvest time when we’d all see what’s wheat and what’s weed. In just the same way, militant argumentative attitudes are simply not the way of Jesus and shouldn’t be the tactic of His followers. Instead, God’s Word gives us wisdom like “A soft answer turns away wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1)
And if you do find yourself in an argument and there isn’t an easy way out, here’s what you should remember:
1. Be motivated by love, not the need to be (or appear) right. Remember that the other person is just like you, but with an opposing perspective.
2. Keep your answers clear and keep them gentle. Let the other person know that you’ve heard them, even if you disagree with them.
3. Always have the goal of reconciliation at the forefront of your mind. This was the mission of Christ and is the commission given to those who call Him Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:18)