As a new believer in my early twenties I fell in love with apologetics. At the time I was in the prime of my academic career and had few of life’s major pressures — no mortgage, no family, no wife, no business. So all of my excess testosterone was put into service in the realm of mental warfare. After all, why would God give me so much energy and passion and a confrontational personality if He didn’t want me to ”go to war” to grow the Kingdom?
Well, as time rolled on and battle after battle was fought, my mind got stronger and more capable but my heart did not grow as fast as my brain. As a result, I won arguments but sometimes at the expense of cooled relationships. We all know what it’s like to lose an argument and to realize our conqueror was only after another notch on his or her belt and never cared two cents about us as individuals. This creates a special and virulent type of bitterness in our souls. Not just for them as people, but for their point of view.
At this stage in my life I see the natural arc of maturation in my walk with God. I am forever grateful for the time I spent honing my mind for the service of convincing non-believers that faith in Christ is rational. The more rational of all the options. Yet I also welcome this new era of feeling a strong desire to care for my opponents. To hold back when I could pounce. To let things evolve naturally. To allow them to feel like they’ve won a particular exchange so as to bring them back to the table for another round. To try and win the ”long game” as opposed to every encounter.
My advice to the believer that is just starting his or her career as an apologist I say the following;
- Be willing to talk less than you listen
- Be sure you are actually listening to their viewpoint (few things are as powerful as a caring, listening ear)
- Giver fewer, but more well thought out responses
- Ask God to give you a heart for the opponent as well as a sharpened mind
- Be willing to lose the short term game in order to preserve the relationship
”In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets…”
Jesus of Nazareth