Sunday, February 8, 2015

NBA #9: Coming Alongside

New Believer Advice #9:  It’s not about “winning the argument” with another believer or an unbeliever. 
            We tend to think that we know best and that we have to beat others in a battle of wits, in a debate over biblical things.  But it’s not about winning or showing off how smart or godly we are.  (This will make us repulsive to people.)  It’s about helping each other, about coming alongside another person and lovingly putting our arm around their shoulder and helping them on their journey through life or on their long, hard, confusing journey of faith.   
            We need to be there for each other, not fight against each other.  We are all on the same team.  With other believers, we are all on Christ’s team and wanting to do our best to share His love, truth. grace, forgiveness, and healing with others.  And with non-believers, we are all on the same level ground at the foot of the cross.  We are all fallen, sinful humans who do not deserve and cannot earn God’s love, grace, or forgiveness. 
            But that’s okay . . . because we don’t have to deserve or earn it.  It is a free gift that He offers to all of us, if only we would accept it in humility and thankfulness.  But those of us who do accept it are no better or more loved than those who don’t.  And we need to be loving others with the same love that God has for us.  We need to be letting them know of the free gifts He has made available for all of us.  We need to be for them, not against them.  For we are standing right there next to each other at the foot of the cross!  And Jesus died for their sins, out of His incredible love for them, just like He did for us!

(New stuff for this post)
            I remember talking with a teen girl once who was telling me about a debate she got into with some guy over religious things.  And she said things like, “I totally blasted apart all of his arguments.  And he couldn’t answer any of mine.  And when he would try another argument, I would smash that one, too.  I didn’t even let him finish his point because I knew where he was going and I would hammer him before he could even get all the words out.  And he couldn’t defeat any of mine.  I totally won that debate.  No one can come up against me because I smash them all.” 
            She was talking in a smug, “I win - you lose” kind of way, patting herself on the back for her wonderful arguing capabilities, for how brilliant she was.  Of course, some of that is due to her young, immature age.  And some of it is due to the fact that life hadn’t really humbled her yet.  It hadn’t knocked her down a notch, showing her that she is human just like everyone else.  (Been there!)
            But as she was talking to me about how great she was at tearing other people’s views down, all I could think was, Yeah, but where is the grace?  What about having a gentle, peaceful, loving spirit that draws others to you?  To Christ?  Did the guy you destroy feel any love or grace coming from you at all?  Did you see him as someone worth loving and worth rescuing?  Or just as a target to destroy, a viewpoint to defeat in a battle of the wits?
            I’m sure we all know people who are completely turned off to God because of Christians who throw Bible verses at them like grenades, attempting to obliterate any differing opinion or view or disagreeable thing.  These Christians use the Bible like a sword, but not as the “sword of the Spirit.”  Instead they use it as a sword to hack to pieces any non-believer who dares to get in their way.  Somehow, I don’t think God smiles on that at all. 
            I think that having a gentle, loving, graceful spirit is more important (and does more for the Kingdom of God) than does having the ability to destroy people in a philosophical debate.  They will know us by our love.  They will be drawn to us by our love.  And even if we can win a battle of the wits, if we are lacking love, grace, gentleness, and respect for the other person, we will not draw them to Christ or reach their hearts.  We will repel them.  We will lose them if we see them as enemies to be defeated. 

            1 Peter 3:3-4: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  [Maybe, for this example, we could add “or from your great intellectual ability to smash the competition in a battle of the wits”?]  Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”  
            1 Corinthians 13:1-3:  “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging symbol.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
            Galatians 5:22:  “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” 

            While it is a great thing (and an important thing) to have intelligent views, to have answers and rebuttals to other views, and to be able to share God’s truth confidently, we need to always be careful about the spirit it is done in.  Because if we are smug, argumentative, and “holier than thou,” we will draw no one to Christ. 
            “Always be ready 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)
            “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”  (Ephesians 4:15)
            But even if we do not have all the answers and cannot win the debates, people will be drawn to us and to Christ if they sense how loved they are, valued they are, and how welcoming, forgiving, enticing, and fulfilling the grace of Christ is. 
            It’s not our job to destroy other people or to point out every time they violate one of God’s commands or to force them to agree with our view.  It’s not our job to push people to Christ or to drag people to Christ.  But it is our job to come alongside them on this journey of life and help them find the love and grace of Christ.  It’s our job to live the truth in our own lives and to shine with Christ’s love and forgiveness and grace so that people might see it and be drawn to it. 
            Let’s always remember that other people are not “the enemies.”  They are people that God created, loves, and died for.  Jesus never violently pushed or forcibly dragged lost people to Him.  He never beat people over the head with truth (except for the smug, self-righteous, religious elite).  He loved and wooed and gently drew people to Him by touching their hearts.  Let’s try to do the same.