When You’re Strong You’re Wrong
DG Blog #32
Many who watched the first presidential debate were disheartened by the way the two candidates conducted themselves in the exchange. Some likened the scene to two children quarreling with each other on a playground—talking over each other, waving their arms, calling each other names, etc. The debate was not what most had hoped for and left many uneasy over what they had witnessed. Such an approach to that debate caused the message to get lost in the method. Now, I bring no opinion to the context of that debate other than this one observation—i.e., there’s a right way to be right, and a wrong way to be right.
When I was a young Christian, an elder said this to me: “When you’re strong, you’re wrong.” I never forgot this because he said this in the context of just witnessing an intensely heated argument between two grown Christian men. No matter who was more right than the other, the message got lost in the method of the way they presented their case. In other words, how we present truth or opinion in our mannerisms determines the impact it has on others. You cannot drive a 40-ton truck of confrontation over a plywood bridge of love. No love, no voice.
Paul admonishes us to “let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6).” And, “speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).” And, again, “Let us, therefore, make every effort to do what leads to mutual edification (Romans 14:19.” Truth is essential to share. But if presented too strong, the message gets lost in the way it is shared. So no matter how right you may be in your opinion about any subject—politically or theologically—you can be right in a wrong if you’re too strong and attack the person you’re speaking to. It merely falls on deaf ears, and you’ve lost any opportunity for them to consider the truth in what you’ve shared. When you’re strong, you’re wrong. And to the outside observer, many unbelievers see Christians going at each other about their differences very much like they saw the two candidates in the presidential debate. All you have to do is look at the Facebook posts that have come out since the COVID plague upset the table of Christian love and unity. The world is watching.
When I became a Christian in the U.S. Air Force, I experienced endless opportunities for disputes and quarrels over non-essential doctrines, not only with those involved in cults but also with Christians. When you find yourself in a conversation with saints of “another” conviction, I offer Peter’s advice: “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).”
Comprehend what you believe so you can answer those who challenge your beliefs. However, refrain from condescendingly having an argumentative spirit. Hold to your beliefs, yes—but adhere to Paul’s warning to, “Avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless” (Titus 3:9).
Whenever I address a controversial doctrine with other Christians, I come with a humble heart, recognizing that I am not God and will never grasp or see everything there is to see in the Bible. The Word of God is infinitely deep and cannot be mastered. Be careful not to have an overly high opinion regarding your knowledge of the Bible or a particular pet doctrine. Though we must not be gullible, we can be teachable and open to understanding other Christians’ views on a specific subject or doctrine.
Hear them out. Request scripture references to see whether they have a real grasp of their convictions or merely echoing someone else’s opinion on the subject. Agree with what you agree with, or politely say, “That’s an interesting take on that.” You don’t have to retort, “Preposterous!” or, “How stupid!” or, “Wow, you are so grossly deceived!” Instead, say something like, “Hmm, that’s an interesting way to look at it,” and leave it at that. You’re neither agreeing with them nor putting them down. If they have a high opinion of their expertise on the matter, it is useless to argue with them anyway, and a huge waste of time. Just leave it alone.
However, if they share their thoughts in a humble and teachable spirit, sincerely interested in your take on the subject, then, by all means, proceed to share your point of view as clearly as possible. I have always found the best way to present my case in a matter is without an agenda to convert them to my opinion. I’ll share my perspective gently and with respect and then leave it up to the Holy Spirit to enlighten them. They must be as free to have their conviction as you are to have yours. On that note, let me conclude this blog with the May 6th devotional in Oswald Chambers’ —My Utmost for His Highest:
“A spiritually-minded person will never come to you with the demand—“Believe this and that;” a spiritually-minded person will demand that you align your life with the standards of Jesus. We are not asked to believe the Bible, but to believe the One whom the Bible reveals (see John 5:39-40). We are called to present liberty for the conscience of others, not to bring them to liberty for their thoughts and opinions. And if we ourselves are free with the liberty of Christ, others will be brought into that same liberty—the liberty that comes with realizing the absolute control and authority of Jesus Christ.
Always measure your life solely by the standards of Jesus. Submit yourself to His yoke, and His alone; and always be careful to never place a yoke on others that is not of Jesus Christ. It takes God a long time to get us to stop thinking that unless everyone sees things exactly as we do; they must be wrong. That is never God’s view. There is only one true liberty—the liberty of Jesus at work in our conscience enabling us to do what is right.
Don’t get impatient with others. Remember how God dealt with you—with patience and with gentleness. But never water down the truth of God. Let it have its way and never apologize for it. Jesus said, “Go…and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19), not ‘Make converts to your own thoughts and opinions.'”
Grace and Peace!