This is a brief follow up post to my recent “Is Evangelism Child Abuse” where I voiced my concern over the trend towards more over-the-top, anti-religious rhetoric in the marketplace of ideas. The broader more significant issue I see at stake in this discussion has to do with monitoring the spirit of the dialogue between differing viewpoints.
Christians are called to “Always be prepared 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). We must recognize that our attitudes and actions speak just as loudly or more so than the words out of our mouth. The Apostle Paul reminds the Jesus community to “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6).
When our deepest held convictions and most cherished beliefs are challenged, it is easy to “fight fire with fire” and turn to nasty, back-handed comments, personal attacks and below the belt rhetoric. The early Jesus movement did not explode in numbers by words and persuasive arguments alone, but by an irresistible, Spirit-led way of life that incarnated Jesus’ love and compassion for the marginalized, beat down, and disenfranchised. Paul said, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Cor 4:20) — and the power he refers to is the powerful, life changing work of the Holy Spirit active in the Jesus community. Again, Paul says: “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Cor 2:4-5).
How can we raise the bar and set the tone in the current dialogue between both people of differing faiths and with the new village atheists? The answer is, of course, to again follow the example of Jesus in our interactions and be Spirit-led in all our conversations.
Pastor, speaker and blogger, Dr. Mark D. Roberts, offers some thoughtful reflections on his interactions with Christopher Hitchens, one of the most provocative anti-religious polemicists on the circuit today, posing the question: “Will Rhetoric Like That of Christopher Hitchens Make the World a Better Place?”
I invite you to ponder his thoughts. In the meantime, may we all be people of peace, keeping all of our conversations “full of grace” and “seasoned with salt.”