Sometimes I have a hard time with that. I forget my manners and say what I think when I think it and as I think it. That approach is apropos with certain people under certain circumstances, but usually a well regulated degree of thoughtful finesse is not only more effective but seen as more civilized. To those for whom I’ve stepped over the line and on their toes –I apologize.
Yes yes I know, ideas have consequences and the eternal destiny of everyone is effected by the worldview constructed by the ideas they hold. But most people don’t lead with their thoughts. On the temporal battleground of earth most of us are more effected by feelings than the thoughts, ideas and worldviews that predict our eternal destiny.
It’s all about relationships; not ideas.
The relationship may last for a mere 10 seconds with a stranger while standing in the checkout line at the grocery store. Perhaps that person in boredom with the wait wonders aloud a statement that reveals a logical flaw in his worldview. It is my instant reaction to snap back with a clever retort. And I may be right! I may be brilliantly right! But does that help the person process the point I am trying to make? Or does it prompt an immediate reflexive slamming of his foot on the intellectual brake pedal?
The outcome? I think I’m clever and he thinks I’m a jerk!
Not many people want to be around clever jerks. There are some who do. But if that’s how I come across I severely limit my sphere of influence to just this class of people.
This is especially true with family and friends. Sometimes it’s just best to say nothing and let the evangelical wheels of reason and logic roll quietly along in the background while enjoying the company of those I love and care about.
I find if I am patiently vigilant there is an increase in spontaneous and appropriate opportunities to bring ideas into the relationship with “gentleness and respect.”
I tend to forget 1 Peter 3:15 has three parts. The middle of the three is the WHAT, or the action we are to take. We all know about this one! But taken alone and out of context it is misapplied. I am certainly guilty of this.
The first sentence reminds me WHY I evangelize the gospel of reason. It isn’t to win arguments, look smart or be right. I do it out of gratitude and reverence to Jesus Christ to whom I owe everything.
The third sentence instructs us HOW to carry out what Peter has commanded. Without which the message is dehumanized and pushes people away from the grace of God instead of drawing them near.
“But do this with gentleness and respect.”