May 29, A Healthy Debate

Acts 19:1-8

While Apollos was in Corinth,
Paul traveled through the interior of the country
and down to Ephesus where he found some disciples.
He said to them,
“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?”
They answered him,
“We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
He said, “How were you baptized?”
They replied, “With the baptism of John.”
Paul then said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance,
telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him,
that is, in Jesus.”
When they heard this,
they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And when Paul laid his hands on them,
the Holy Spirit came upon them,
and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
Altogether there were about twelve men.

He entered the synagogue, and for three months debated boldly
with persuasive arguments about the Kingdom of God.

Someone once said there are two things you don’t discuss at Thanksgiving dinner and in a bar.  Religion and Politics.  Not me.  Nope.  I say bring it.  Why?  Because I don’t argue.  I debate.  There is a difference.

I love a good debate.  I really do.  I am the type of guy that loves to hear the other side make a case for their cause using facts, logic, and reason.  I can respect the other side even if I don’t agree with them so long as they don’t engage in derogatory tactics such as name calling etc.  I myself have been involved in some wonderful debates in the comments box on Facebook, with coworkers, and with strangers in a bar.  None of which that lasted three months.  But I was in a debate with someone that lasted nearly two years.

As many of you know, my wife Bobbi and I didn’t always see eye to eye on faith and religion.  She will be the first person to tell you that she was very anti-Catholic.  But the debate that we had about Catholicism that lasted for nearly two years taught me something important about debate in general.  To be effective in your stance on the cause you are debating, you cannot go into it with the mindset that you are going to change a person’s mind.  You could win the debate, but lose the person.  We can’t control another person’s mind.  We can’t control how someone thinks or feels.  The best we can do is give them something to think about and let them come to their own conclusion.  I didn’t force my wife to be a Catholic.  She didn’t become a Catholic for me.  She did that on her own and came to that conclusion on her own.  All I did was give her a few things to think about along the way.

The Apostle Paul was a master at doing this.  He had a knack for bringing the Gospel to people on their terms and at their level without sacrificing the message.  When sharing the faith with others, you have to go to them.  They aren’t going to come to you.  You have to reach them where they are at in their lives because chances are if you convey your message on your terms they won’t understand and your efforts will be in vain.  Be bold in sharing Jesus with the world.  Don’t worry if it turns into a three month debate or a three year debate with your wife.  As Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15-16 “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence…”  

Thought for the day:  Debate isn’t bad.  It can be informative and educational and eye opening.  But remember to treat your opponent the same way you’d want them to treat you.  Bring your dialogue with them to their level and not try and talk over them with fancy words in a vain attempt to make yourself look smarter.  You may win the debate but lose a person in the process.

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