“The Lord God has given me
the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
he awakens my ear
to hear as those who are taught.” (Isaiah 50:4 ESV)
“NO. You’re wrong. In fact, you are so wrong in the history of people being wrong, you might be in the top five.” Wow that felt good. Have you ever had a time, when you just needed to tell people how wrong they are? I’ve found, especially lately, scrolling through social media that it’s become almost my “go-to” response. Which is probably not a healthy thing
It’s also, I’ve discovered not only not healthy, but a bit of a waste of time. I’ve never, in all the time I have glanced through social media, ever seen one person change their mind. think about that. I can’t remember anyone responding “why your thoughts are cogent and well put together. I have completely change my ideas on this.” Ever.
It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is. I t could be a discussion over who is the greatest centerfielder of all time. Or which political party is the best chance we have for our future. Or which presidential candidate is the worst. Or theological stances, views of the church etc. No one’s mind ever changes. Trust me, I’ve tried, at least on the theological ones. I try to leave the political ones alone. Not because I don’t have any pretty deep-seated political convictions. But as a pastor, I have to shepherd people on both sides.
But when you get into the realm of belief, Christianity, the church or our denomination I figure most bets are off. And the stakes are higher. And so, for a while I entered into several debates and discussions over our faith and our denomination, especially as we sail through some pretty rocky waters at the moment. My arguments were strong, logical and backed up both with Scripture and the history of the church. And not one person changed their minds.
It’s pretty clear to me that while debate can be fun and has its place, it really doesn’t change anyone. And while we may not care if we change anyone’s political viewpoints, we ought to care about changing the hearts of other people. Our Great Commission from Jesus at the end of Matthew is to go and make disciples. It’s very clear. It’s not the role of just professional clergy. Jesus has given you a job. One job really. Make disicples. And at the foundation of making a disciple is transformation. Changing their hearts. Changing their minds. Moving them from where they are into the community of the Body of Christ. How well are you doing your one job?
We often fail to do our job because of one of two reasons. We either don’t do it at all, expecting it to be someone else’s job. Or if we do, we try to argue people into the faith. If you can’t reason with someone over who is the greatest center fielder, how can we ever assume we can argue anyone into the Kingdom of God? Usually those arguments result in hurt feigned anger and a loss of relationship.
So how are we to live out that great commission? Perhaps a pivotal moment from the life of CS Lewis can help us. In his day Lewis was probably the best known apologist for the Christian faith. His way with words, logic and keen mind allowed him to argue for the faith over and over again.
In 1948 He had a debate with a young Catholic philosopher named Elizabeth Anscomb over a chapter in Lewis’ book Miracles. To every one’s surprise, she tore apart Lewis’ arguments. Lewis himself admitted he had lost the debate. The loss caused Lewis to abandon Apologetics altogether.
But it was not because he feared failure or losing a debate. Rather, Lewis began to realize that argument and debate is simply not how God tends to move in a person’s heart. No, Lewis saw that God changes hearts through narrative and relationship. The narrative of the bible changes lives. When someone shares their story of how God transformed them, that changes lives. Notice how many times, when Jesus changes someone’s life, he asks them to tell someone. It’s also about relationship. Jesus doesn’t change the hearts of the Pharisees when he argues with them. But He does change the lives of the disciples in whom He invested over three years of relationship.
Interestingly enough, Lewis abandons Apologetics and arguments, but begins to write the Chronicles of Narnia. Not as parables, but as stories. Why? Because Lewis knew that the narrative story and the relationship someone might have even with characters in a book, could point someone to Jesus.
If you want to fulfill that great commission? If you really want to change someone’s life, then stop arguing. In fact, stop debating altogether. Invest in a relationship. care about people, get to know them. And tell your story. Tell the story of how Jesus changed your life. And watch the transformation unfold.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><