Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim. 2:25)
Twitter and Facebook feuds have contributed to the polarized culture that we live in. Someone posts an idea, and immediately someone else opposes it. The comments to posts are often vicious and directed at the person. Christians often enter into the fray with crusade-like vigor. The many participants in this global discussion might feel they are finally getting their say, maybe even making a difference by arguing their point against a faceless mob. But most likely they are only contributing to the vast differences we all feel about each other. These forums might be good to share pictures of your family vacation, but they are horrible places to have a healthy, sustained conversation about truth.
Sociologists claim that if we try to change someone’s mind by exerting pressure, it will only create resistance—and even stronger adherence to one’s opinion. It is better to find a point of agreement and to reframe the topic in a way that starts a conversation instead of an argument. If we assume that everyone is interested in the “knowledge of truth,” we can seek out a way to get there together.
This kind of “gentle instruction” is based on the belief that ultimately God alone can change a person’s mind through granting them repentance. Our harsh, dogmatic assertions will undoubtedly fall on deaf ears. Expounding our views usually makes us feel good about ourselves, but it does little to instruct others toward God and God’s truth.
Talk to someone with the intention of discovering God’s truth together.
Rich Eckley is professor of theology at Houghton College and serves on the Women in Ministry Task Force for The Wesleyan Church.
© 2019 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission.