I am a member of a number of different discussion groups, most of which are religious, meaning they profess to be composed of Christian, Hebraic Roots, or Messianic people.
Too often you wouldn’t know that by how they talk to each other.
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The topic of God, sin, or how to live our lives is a hot potato, no doubt of that, and engenders some really passionate discussion. Passionate is OK, really, so long as it is compassionately controlled. That means you can destroy someone’s argument but when you start to destroy the person making the argument, you have lost.
There are a few verses in Proverbs about arguing with a fool, but not everyone who argues is a fool. In fact, most are intelligent people who, sometimes, just believe in the most ridiculous things. And when we try to convince them of the truth (as we see it), we often feel like we are running headfirst into a brick wall.
And the fact of the matter is…we are.
That is the point at which I often see the discussion devolve into an exchange of personal insults.
Here’s what Socrates said about this condition:
When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.
As Believers, we should represent God well. And what I mean by “Believer” is anyone who professes to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; you may (or may not) accept Yeshua as your Messiah, which isn’t necessary to believe in God. Anyone who believes in God should act in accordance with the way he says we should. Of course, being human that won’t happen all the time, but that’s no excuse why we can’t make it happen all the time we are in a discussion with others.
I was once told by a boss, whom I respected as my boss and (I am happy to say) still respect as my friend (that’s you, James M.), that what I say is usually the right thing, but I say it the wrong way. Ultimately, the right thing is lost because of the wrong way I say it.
A proper argument or discussion is when we exchange ideas without anger, and we should never tell the other person what they must believe. If we want to have any chance of convincing them of our position, we must first demonstrate that we respect their right to believe what they choose to believe. If we don’t start off that way, we will never get them to listen to our side. That’s a given. So, before we begin to argue for our side, ask them why they believe in their side. Asking them questions why they believe will give us the ammunition we need to shoot down their “facts”, and we may even learn something new. Just because we believe differently doesn’t mean we are always right.
Sometimes they may be the ones who are correct! If you aren’t willing to listen to their arguments, attentively, then you have already lost, even if you are correct.
There can often be more than one “truth” to a topic, and listening is the best way to realize that.
Never tell anyone they are not spiritual enough (even if they aren’t), or that they don’t know what they are talking about (even when they really don’t) because that is a personal attack, and all you will hear is “Shields up, Scotty!!” And when that happens, you have lost. And not just lost the argument but lost the chance to possibly save someone’s soul from eternal damnation.
We need to first ask why they believe, and then tell them why we believe otherwise, giving biblical references or established facts. If you don’t know, absolutely, where your facts come from, then be prepared to say “I have heard” or “I was told”, in order to let the other person know you aren’t really sure, but chose to believe.
The best start to winning an argument is not to try to get the other person to believe as you do, but to get the other person to doubt what they believe. That is the first step; once they doubt their facts, then you can provide your reasons why you believe and let them make their own choice.
And if you find yourself getting frustrated with their refusal to accept your ideas, then stop. Recognize that the moment you are frustrated, you are no longer working to spread God’s truth, but to satisfy your own prideful need to be recognized and accepted. At that point, sin is crouching at your door and you must master it before you start to insult the other person.
We mustn’t allow ourselves to represent God poorly, as not only will this weaken our position, but it could also turn the other person, who may not be a Believer, away from God. The very last thing we ever want to hear is someone say to us “And you call yourself a Christian!”
Everyone is given free will to choose what they will believe and since that is a gift from God, who are we to take it away from them? They will be held accountable for what they believe, and when someone believes something that will hurt them, eternally, we should try to convince them of God’s truth, and if they refuse to listen, pray for them.
But never, ever insult them or their beliefs: that won’t change their minds, and in my opinion, is an insult to God.
Thank you for being here and please subscribe, share these messages, and check out my new discussion group, Just God’s Word .
Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!