One of the things that comes up more often in conversations I have with people than almost any other thing these days is how to address friends, family, coworkers and strangers with our beliefs in a way that is truthful, engaging and not too awkward.
Actually, the question more often than not is “what do I say?”
There are so many social woes in our society right now and so many varied responses that taking it all in, processing it and coming up with our own language to address it is a serious challenge. There is a nonstop cycle of news, internets (as I’m told they”re called) with endless information and rants from pastors, coworkers and drunk uncles at holidays.
So, how do Christians respond to things like gay marriage, wars in Syria and continual politics of attrition? There are three easy steps:
1. Stop the rhetoric, slow down and consult the one who knows the answers.
Before you get drawn into a conversation you’re not ready for, take some time to pray and study the Bible. If we jump into conversations and debates with others about things we have not spent time asking God about first, we will inevitably say things we wish we could take back. One of the biggest problems Christians have today in representing themselves and the gospel in our culture is an unwillingness to remove themselves from a debate they’re not ready for.
2. Choose carefully the sources you listen to and allow to influence your mind.
I have run across many people who think about homosexual marriage exactly what Rush Limbaugh tells them to believe. The problem with that is that they think they believe exactly what the Bible tells them. Or make that Jon Stewart. Or the New York Times. Or Fox News.
Whatever you choose, it will have the effect of influencing your opinions. I am definitely not saying to only listen to people who say what you already agree with. To the contrary, it is often better to listen to those who have completely contrary views to yours to hear exactly what is going through someone’s head about a given subject. The key is to be grounded in God’s opinion first. I’ll refer you to #1 for that.
3. Choose the words of your response with your mind fixed on truth and your tone filled with grace.
This is by far the most challenging part of our equation here. If we come from a position of self-righteous anger, we may share truth with others but in a way where we offer them no alternative but to refuse what we believe. Or, if we choose to soften the blow of truth by making an apology for every little thing we believe, we will end up not actually be sharing truth.
We need the ever-present and indwelling help of the Holy Spirit in our lives to share words of truth that can sound harsh at times all while delivering them in an atmosphere of grace.
One way our American church culture is failing right now is in this sentiment of what some call “easy grace.” This notion of “Jesus loves you” apart from the truth that we are rebellious, sinful beings destined for judgment and destruction is not helpful and it is not the gospel. The truth of our fallen state before Jesus’ salvation does not sound very gracious, but the good news of the gospel–the fix for our situation–is the most grace-filled truth in all the world.
We must be able to share truth, even if it seems harsh or cruel at the time, in an atmosphere of grace. To do that, we need the Holy Spirit and we need experience. Don’t expect to get it right the first time or every time, but make a goal for yourself to get better.
We have enough headstrong blow-hards out there right now. Be a voice of truth and grace that God won’t use in spite of you, but in the partnership He desires to have with you.