There is nothing like a Saturday. Utilizing sidewalk chalk to draw Creation. Creating makeshift trailers to haul things around the yard. Sitting in the shade discussing Michael the Archangel, the Deity of Christ, and Greek manuscripts. Ah, life.
That’s how Saturdays have been for us lately. I was approached one Saturday by some Jehovah’s Witnesses as my children and I ran around the playroom pretending to be Spiderman (a great character to be playing in order to begin a theological conversation). As we talked, I appreciated their conviction and their commitment to give up a Saturday to inform me concerning their beliefs (no one else did that day).
I try to be like Jesus. I fail miserably all the time, but one of the ways I do imitate him some of the time is channeling the art of asking questions. Jesus would oftentimes answer a question with a followup question. In our time that day, I simply asked them question after question concerning their faith.
I kept rehearsing 1 Peter 3:15 in my mind:
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
One of my questions unnerved one of my guests and caused them quickly to leave.
Out of sheer curiosity, I asked how they determined what in the Book of Revelation was symbolic and what was to be taken literal. We were discussing the 144,000 in heaven (Rev. 7:4) which they take literally, and I asked if they took it literally when Jesus said he would come and take the lamp stand away from the church in Ephesus (Rev. 2:5). It shows that someone is interpreting what is symbolic and what is literal. At that, one of them laughed with me at the thought of Jesus breaking in and stealing the church’s lamp, and the other stood up promptly and said they had another appointment they needed to make.
I asked for contact information so we could continue the dialogue and the one who appreciated my humor graciously provided that.
Through calls and texts, we have kept in touch and tried to get another time to get together.
We finally got together this Saturday (but this time he came time with a different partner). As I was watching my children in the driveway and the Agnew household was being visited by differing guests throughout the morning, I pulled up some chairs and my visitors joined me in the driveway for a truly meaningful conversation accompanied by a wonderful Southern breeze.
As we enjoyed one another’s company for about 2 hours, I walked away with a few thoughts:
- Scripture memory is necessary. You never know when you will be engaged with someone of differing beliefs, and Scripture memory is vital for those conversations. It shows that you are serious about what you believe and allows you to possess more than mere sentiment concerning your convictions (Heb. 4:12). When I was a college student, the single most life-changing discipline for me was memorizing Scripture. It moved from the Bible being a book on the shelf to words in my soul. I grew tired of knowing the Bible in part, I needed to know it in my heart (Ps. 119:9-11). Don’t know where to start? Here is some help to memorize Scripture.
- Disagreement does not mean intolerance. Our culture currently teaches that to be tolerant means you must accept every belief as equally true and equally valid. That is not tolerance. Honestly, that idea is downright offensive to those who believe differently. It is acceptable to disagree but it does not give you the freedom to be disrespectful. You can converse and disagree and still be courteous to one another (1 Pet. 3:15).
- Earn credibility before you establish an argument. Showing gracious hospitality goes a long way (1 Tim. 3:2). Allowing others to witness you with your family earns you a right to be heard. My kids’ reaction and engagement with other folks who came to the house had an impact. It’s wild how God orchestrates certain things.
- Share respect with those who share their faith. One of the hardest things for me to hear from one of my guests was after our conversation had been going for about 30 minutes, she stated, “Thank you for this. This conversation is so engaging. It’s so nice to be able to talk about the truth with someone. Most people who believe differently don’t even give us the time of day, but you have shown us such hospitality. This conversation has my mind stretching in so many ways. You are asking me questions I have never even considered before and I love it! This is so challenging!” It made me so sad to think that believers had been rude to these folks in the “name of Jesus.” Regardless of their motives for coming to your house, they are taking their free time to share with you their beliefs, and I believe that deserves your respect. As they were leaving, I said, “I appreciate you coming so much. I commend you for spending your Saturday sharing your faith with me. You take this very seriously and I respect you so much for that.” Make the most of the opportunity and watch what you say and how you say it (Col. 4:5-6).
- Be ready in season and out of season. I have heard many evangelical Christians say they don’t want to talk with a Jehovah’s Witness because they don’t “know their stuff good enough.” It’s a tragic reality when you think your beliefs are true but don’t know them well enough to defend them to another. Study the Word enough to be unashamed and able to handle the truth accurately (2 Tim. 2:15). Be ready at any time with what you believe from the Word (2 Tim. 4:2). My time with my friends have actually caused me to do some further study. I have researched a bunch this weekend and am sending personal messages to my friends for them to read in order to discuss the findings with me (I am also planning on posting some of my findings on the blog as a resource to you).
- Winning a soul is better than winning an argument. Don’t try to destroy someone with arguments. Victory isn’t classified by annihilating someone’s oratorical skills. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies (1 Cor. 8:1). In your theological treatise, don’t lose the right to be heard a second time.
- Let everything you say be based from love. 1 Thess. 2:8 says it best as a way to remind us to love the person we share with and to give up our very lives to them. If love for the person isn’t your motivation, pride and frustration sets in and causes you to be a bad representation for Jesus.
I pray that I have gained some friends, and I pray that I have represented the Word of God well. And I pray, when you get the opportunity, you will do the same.
Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our ownlives, because you had become very dear to us. -1 Thess. 2:8
Tomorrow, I will be sharing some of my findings that I am passing along as a resource to you in your discussions about faith.