If I’m having a discussion with someone about my Christian faith, it usually doesn’t take me too long before I can get a sense of where the conversation is going. And generally speaking, it’s not always the actual questions that are being asked, more importantly, it is the tone of the intent that accompanies the questions, that serves as an indicator. As an example, if there is sarcasm, or a dismissive tone present, generally speaking, that is usually a pretty good indicator that the conversation probably isn’t going to accomplish that much. That would be about the time where I would start to ask a few questions myself so that I can get a feel for the background of the individual to whom I’m speaking to. Another way of putting that is getting the lay of the land so to speak, so you have a basic overview of what you may be dealing with.
Conversely, if there is an element of sincerity conveyed with the question, generally speaking, you are probably listening to an honest question that the individual would like an answer to. It’s vitally important to really listen, not to just the question but also the tone of the question. If you’ve noticed in the Scriptures, many times when Jesus was asked a question, His first response was to ask them a question. Sometimes, just by saying “Do you mind if I ask, why is this particular question important to you?”, you can avoid misunderstanding the question, which is more common than you would think. How you answer the person’s first question is really important because it sets the stage so to speak, to their receptiveness to what follows thereafter.
There is a distinct difference between responding to honest questions with honest answers and responding to someone who asks questions so that they can demonstrate their presumed superior debating skills and knowledge.
In Matthew 7:6 NIV Jesus said “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”
I don’t know about you but I’m not too fond of people who like to play word or head games. If I hear an honest question, I will try to provide an honest answer. I’ve also learned to seek feedback from the person I am speaking so that I get confirmation that the answer that I provided, did in fact, answer their question. Don’t presume, ask and if necessary do a follow-up.
In Matthew 7:6, Jesus is indicating to us that we should try and discern when someone really wants to hear the reasoning behind our hope that is found in the Gospel or they just want to use what we say as a means to turn it around and argue with us. I have found out over many exchanges that, generally speaking, you’re wasting your time if you think you are going to argue someone into heaven. Reasoning with one another is one thing, arguing is entirely another. If you encounter recurring circular reasoning, which occurs when they state their claim and then, usually after rewording it, they state it again as their reason, commonly referred to as “begging the question”, beware.
It’s also vitally important to remember that it is God’s responsibility, through the Holy Spirit, to convict a non-believer’s conscience of their sin, not ours (John 16:8) I can remember, as a young Christian, thinking if I can just get three or four more Bible verses spoken out loud to him ….. don’t do that, listen for His guidance, the Holy Spirit will tell you when to back off. Make sure you listen. And saying a quick silent prayer for God’s help never hurts, God doesn’t need to hear your prayer for help, He already knows you need Him, but it’s important for you to remember who’s really in control. That reality alone can change your whole approach to the conversation.
It’s important to understand that, generally speaking, there is no convincing someone who has already made up their mind. There is a point when it’s a waste of time and only makes matters worse, and we can end up doing more harm than good.
When witnessing to a non-believer, the goal is not to win an argument but to help the individual see their need for Jesus.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!