I think that a valid criticism of many Christian leaders right now is that they often times are not willing to debate with those that disagree with them. This applies especially within the "discernment" world. It’s really easy to constantly be talking ABOUT someone all while preaching to the choir. That’s how you ensure you get pats on the back and get cheered on. But when you think about it, what are you really accomplishing?
I mean, it’s great to educate your audience on biblical theology. In fact, that is needed profusely in the church today! Our churches are so theologically lacking, so I’m all for more biblical preaching, teaching and education. However, when the opportunity comes to engage directly with someone that disagrees with you, in my opinion you should take advantage of that!
We see this kind of mentality exemplified with the Apostle Paul.
And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.
It’s often times easy to gloss over the context of particular passages that we read quite often, and the context really helps us to understand what was actually happening here. Paul was going into the synagogues to reason with the Jews. Now, as we all know, the religious beliefs of the Jews at that time had warped into something completely unbiblical. The Jewish faith had devoted into a legalistic, rule-following religion. This meant that what was being preached as the way to salvation was actually a false Gospel. Because of this, presumably, the Jewish people were being led astray to eternal punishment in hell because they were placing their faith in a false Gospel.
So when Paul went into the synagogues to reason with them, he was essentially participating in debates, pointing back to Scripture as his source of truth. But it’s important to note that the people that he was reasoning with were those who believed in this false Gospel. I can assure you that the religious leaders in the synagogues were probably supportive of the legalism of the Pharisees. Did that scare Paul away? No, he went right into the lion’s den to engage with them for the purposes of the Gospel.
I think that we can apply that to our lives today. When we have an opportunity to reason with someone with whom we disagree, we should take that opportunity. Now, that doesn’t mean participating in an Interfaith Dialogue, which is focused on uniting two polar opposite religions together. It means engaging and reasoning with them for the purposes of persuading those believing in false doctrines or religions to place their faith in Christ and follow after Him.
I’ve now taken this opportunity multiple times now. On my podcast Conversations with Jeff, I had Dr Michael Brown on to discuss my concerns with him, his theology and his associations. He was very gracious and told me not to hold back, and we essentially disagreed strongly for an hour of the hour and a half conversation. With that said, he was also extremely gracious and welcomed the disagreement. While I strongly disagree with his beliefs and have many concerns about those he surrounds himself with and endorses, I am glad that I took the opportunity to reason directly with him.
This is the strategy that Paul took in Thessalonica, and Acts 17:2 said that this was his custom. If it’s good enough of Paul, it’s good enough for me. If you get the opportunity to reason with someone with whom you disagree, don’t find a way to get out of having to do that. Just do it.
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