July 14, 2011

Arguing Like Jesus

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Jesus didn't really argue with people.  This passage is an example of how he dealt with those who challenged him:

Mark 11:27-33
They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him.  “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”  

Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.  John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?'  But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)  

So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”  Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” 

I love the way Jesus responds to his detractors.  When I read passages like this, I wonder why I don't see Christians speak with more of the cleverness Jesus uses here.  When someone attacks our faith, we're so quick to jump to our own defense and explain why our position is the correct one.

When Jesus spoke, he often communicated in ways that left some people confused.  Many times, he didn't even answer the question that was posed because he understood the motivation of the inquiry.

When Jesus was challenged by those who tried to trap him with something he said, he didn't fight them on their level.  Instead he answered questions with better questions.  He articulated truth in a ways that even his enemies couldn't deny.  Instead of giving them the soundbite that they were hoping for, Jesus leaves them with a thought provoking insight.

There's alot to be learned from the way Christ handled criticism and attacks on his identity.  I really believe that God can give us creative, effective ways to express our faith.  We can have dialogue with those who disagree without being combative on the one hand or pretending that our differences don't matter on the other hand.

Our interactions with those who don't believe shouldn't confirm false assumptions about who we are.  Our conversations should leave people genuinely desiring to know more about our faith and ultimately, the Author of that faith.
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