Awhile ago, a friend of mine was trying to engage me in debate with him over an issue that, in the whole scheme of life, it didn't matter if we agreed upon or not. It was one of those minor details of Christianity that tends to divide Christians into at least two different camps, when really, there are much huger issues to be worked out. Anyways, this friend of mine kept trying to get me to argue with him. What really irked him is that when he'd be like "What do you think?" I'd just be like "No, what do you think? It seems like you have an opinion. Do you want to know what I think, or do you want to tell me what you think?"
Yeah. That drove him crazy. I admit...I took a little too much delight in giving him unsatisfactory answers.
Finally, frustrated, he basically told me to tell him what I thought about the issue he was trying to argue with me about. I shrugged and told him, "You know what? I think the danger of discussing theology is that it's so easy to get wrapped up in arguments that we forget to actually go out and live the Word of God. Yes, we need to know what we believe, but we need to stop arguing so much that we totally abandon sharing the Gospel with those who don't believe."
He scoffed at that.
So I kept talking. "It seems like you're really passionate about sharing your beliefs, am I right?" He nodded, and I continued. "Let me ask you this: what is your motivation for sharing your opinion?"
He beat around the bush, admitted that his motives were sometimes faulty, and then concluded with, "I just want God to be glorified."
"Oh, I agree," I responded. "I want Him to be glorified, too. But it seems to me that if preaching our beliefs isn't motivated by a genuine Love for God and a sincere compassion for the people we're talking to, then it becomes way too easy to lapse into debating for the sake of proving ourselves right. I know this from experience."
Our conversation pretty much died from there. The debate stopped, because I didn't engage in it, and he left the room. I sat there, wondering if my words had made any difference at all. I still don't know if they did.
Over and over and over again, I keep being shown that theology without action is totally stupid and useless. Arguing our beliefs will destroy, rather than encourage, any hope of reaching the unsaved. "Sharing the Gospel" becomes "beating people over the head with Bibles," if our motivation for sharing the Gospel isn't God's Love. Think about it. That verse you learned in Sunday School - John 3:16? Yeah, it says that God Loved the world so much that He sent His Son to die for us. The motivation behind the greatest act of Truth-spreading was untamed, crazy, I-will-sacrifice-my-all-for-you Love. And that needs to be our motivation, as well.
I was recently heading to a class discussion in which I knew the topic would be centered upon defeating Christianity. Before I got to class, I prayed. I prayed that God would give me the words to speak, that I would be filled with the Spirit...and that the reason I would speak up would be not because I wanted to prove myself right and shake my fist at those who didn't agree with me, but rather, I would want to express my beliefs because I Love the people in my class and want them to know God's Love as I do. That day, as I defended my faith, I did so because of compassion for the people whose eyes were blinded. And you know what? God blessed it. When I spoke, people listened. Some of the questions I asked of the atheists, they didn't have an answer to. And the Spirit inspired me to say something that stunned the professor for awhile, before he said "I'd never thought of that before" and then changed the subject.
I wonder how things would have been different, had I been argumentative and desiring only of stirring up conflict.
I'm not saying I'm perfect at this. I know, all too keenly, what it's like to get riled up and start expressing my opinions because dangit, I wanna prove that I'm right, and they have no right to challenge me! It takes God's Grace to move beyond the "I'm-right-you're-wrong" and step into the "I-Love-you-so-much-and-that's-why-I'm-telling-you-this."
I guess I've just been learning that Love must accompany Truth, or else it'll fall on deaf ears.
I think Casting Crowns said it best.
When we love, we earn the right to speak the truth
When we speak truth, we show the world we truly love
I'm not pointing my finger, I'm holding out my hand
I lay it all on the line now to see God save my friend
Let my life and my words be the proof
I'm gonna love you with the truth.