I love debate, and I think it’s incredibly unhelpful in 99% of all cases. That’s the conclusion of this post. Take it or leave it.
Ask my parents, siblings, and close friends. I will debate just about anything. My natural inclination is to stand up for what I believe in and to never back down. I like to fight to the finish, prove my point, and craft perfect comebacks.
I’m not alone. The Christian community often makes a great show of speaking out against wrong. We spew out dogmatic statements and quickly take sides. All in the name of “giving an answer.” As though a non-believer or misled Christian is going to suddenly realize the error of their ways, thanks to our argument, and say, “Oh. Wait a minute. You’re right.”
I’ve observed the success rates of debate in my own experience and in that of others, and I say it’s getting us 99% of nowhere.
Why? Because the Bible says, “Give an answer with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15), not “Fight, tooth and nail, until your opponent cowers in silence.” It says, “Speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15), not “Throw it in their face, and don’t let them get a word in edgewise.”
While I’m not suggesting that we back down from the truth, I am suggesting that we drop the debate and come alongside our friends and “enemies” to kindly lead them to the truth for which we all aspire to attain. Yes, I said, “Come alongside.” That means, walk with them down the path of their seemingly illogical and unbiblical thinking till someone hits a brick wall and you both come face to face with truth.
Will they listen when you cut them off to tell them the things they need to hear? No, but they will listen when you engage in friendly conversation where the goal is love.
Will they be open to the truth when it is loud and obnoxious? No, but they will when it’s kind and gracious.
Will they care about what you say when they aren’t given a chance to speak? No, but they will when you show interest in their point of view.
There is a time and a place for debate. That’s where the 1% comes in. As for the other 99%, I challenge myself to be quick to hear and slow to speak. To make a bold statement by lovingly leading people to the truth that they’ll only see for themselves when God opens their eyes.
And who knows? Maybe sometimes I’ll discover I’m the one who needs to listen because I’m the one who has strayed. That’s not embarrassing. That’s a win.
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that, whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. Jam 5:19-20
[image credit: flickr.com, journeyoftheword.com]