When beliefs differ. When two parties seem to have such a full and passionate heart about a doctrinal issue that vary from the others view, sometimes its hard to either hold down that passion moderately or know what to do with the said relationship you have with that other party. As being privy to this on many levels the past two-ish years, I feel like sharing some of my thoughts on the matter. This will perhaps not only help me continue to heal from some of the past hurts that come from such events, but also give those of you who are facing or will at some point in your lives (believe me, you will for certain), a bit of insight on things to remember when that time is upon you.
Presenting your "side" has so many ramifications. I know this post/topic could go in a verity of different directions quickly, so I'll try to keep to my immediate thoughts by addressing them in five points/tips by what I've learned and realized first hand from my own experiences this last course of my life lately.
1) Be considerate.
I nearly entitled this just "be nice", but considerate sums it up even more so. Listen, if you have a strong belief on a matter, it is possible to present it in such a way that does not send your "opponent" running in the opposite direction. (More on this point in detail down below.) What I want to address in this section though is simply that we are not all at the same place in life, in our journey of faith, or prepared yet enough mentally for certain issues. This we highly need to consider when butting heads with someone who is having trouble understanding our point of view. If we neglect to not consider this and don't keep it at our forefront, we'll soon be dubbed either a dunderhead or arrogant. This does nothing for our cause whatsoever and if you are smart and truly have an important truth to share, then you'll be wise to take every precaution to do so without going in expecting people to just take your word for whatever it is you're trying to say. Conviction takes time, and is essentially not our job in the first place to relay upon others. Romans 14:22-23, Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith, for whatever is not from faith is sin. Romans 14 talks much about how we should have respect for people who have convictions that may not be exactly the same as us right now. And if a person then "converts" to your belief only out of following after your footsteps and not out of their own love for the Father and their interpenetration of the Word, then really the person is set up to fail in the long run because their so-called conviction was not based on their own passion, but yours instead.
So remember from once you yourself came from and be patient with those who may keep pushing aside the things you tell them. If you're open and willing to discuss things in a civil manner the more likely they will be to at least understand you from where you're coming from than to call you crazy and run out. Do the best you can and let God take over completely. Which leads us to the next point:
2) Don't be guided by you.
If you think you can make every decision on when to speak and when to not, then huzzah for you! But the truth is, we're human, we stumble at every turn and we need constant guidance in this area above all. One of my utmost personal prayers is is that God would give me the words to say; that when I feel I have nothing to offer those in deep remorse that something would come from my mouth that would offer hope and encouragement. I could quote so many verses from the Bible on the importance of "taming the tongue" and the importance of it's use, but here's the one that calls out the most to me that fits this that's aroused that prayer of mine: Luke 21:15, For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. This is an amazing promise our Messiah gave to His followers while He was here on earth. Just as the Lord said to Moses in Exodus, He promised He'd give him the words to say to Pharaoh, He now says He'll give us just the same.
Let's not be driven by what we want to say and when, but by our Father who knows the person so much better than we ever could or will, who knows right when the best time for us to speak is, and who knows exactly where that person is on their own journey.
3) Don't bring in personal matters.
With that ground laid, next up is self control; holding the tongue. In this age its pretty easy to be added to that Bible chat group online and for things to get up in arms pretty easily. People type things that most would never say face to face to you, but since we are feeling driven beings, we take the words like a cut to the heart no matter if we acknowledge this or not. The worst thing you could do (or someone else do just as well to you) is to throw in a personal issue when discussing a doctrinal one. This is not in any means to say that if you're doing something morally wrong that it should be ignored to avoid stepping on toes. But what I am saying is that when people see that you're not about to back down from a belief you're holding fast to, first thing they tend to do is get defensive for their own cause. And what do we do when that happens? Fight, we hit back, fight fire with fire even if a match was never even lit. It's extremely hurtful and it takes a grate urge not to play the game right back at them, but just remember that, we wrestle not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). And that at the end of the day if we truly want to shed our light to the person, we'll present the very best we can be to them with the help of Messiah.
Don't ever ever play into the games and hurtful things people throw at you for your beliefs. There's a time to discuss, present, and walk away. But never stoop so low as to gain their trust and then throw it back at them, hoping they'll still respect your views later. It's just not going to happen.
4) Be friends to a point.
At the end of the day we'd all have to admit that really, we'd all like to be liked by people, accepted. This can't be, you can't make everyone 100% happy with you, but, one thing that I believe can happen is that after everything is talked over and laid out, you should still be able to break bread with those you're in fellowship with. This goes without saying for every single person out there, but it should be our goal to strive to do so on our part as much as possible. Remember Psalm 23? Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Those who disagree with us on Biblical things may not be a full pledged enemy of ours, but this overwhelming feeling comes over me when I imagine this verse being used in this context. To think that people from totally different belief systems can come together and feast and have a grand old time still when their are such bigger weightier issues at hand; this is when I feel that my "cup runneth over", that there's no way I alone could be orchestrating such a feat alone, but by only a truly amazing God like the One we serve.
The other half of this point is that there is most certainly a time when you need to take a step back for a while or for good with someone. Going back and forth is fine in discussion, but if it's not doing either side any good spiritually, then it's time to stop the discussion before bickering ensues and you begin to want to do a bit of point three on each other. Wait till the person comes back to you with a question about the topic at hand, or simply just pray about it and wait on the Lord's timing.
Last thought on this section is to be extra cautious when discussing doctrinal issues with the opposite gender. If you begin to talk about deep topics like this on a regular basis, truth is you're having some pretty heart to heart talks and this can so so quickly ensue with heartbreak to either one or both parties; once you know you may have a difference that would hinder a "more than friends" relationship. I know this first hand, and boy, its not fun to deal with. So be cautious and honest with the person with where you find yourself and don't get in too deep before it's too late.
Above all we need to let God in on each relationship we have and give Him our time and energy in knowing when enough is enough & when we need to continue to be there for a person and when the best time to take a step back is.
5) Present "the truth" in love.
People tell me all time, "Cass! I am being nice! I'm telling them what they need to hear to know the truth of this exists!" But there's a whole lot of difference between telling someone a truth you think they need to hear (or that the Lord is telling you to show them) than presenting "the truth" of whatever you see that matter is and getting upset when they don't get it right away. This goes back to point one that I said we'd get back to more later. Learning to present things in a tangible way for people takes time and practice, grace and patience. But if we don't take these precautions to heart, we'll end up shooting ourselves in the foot. No one will want to be part of anything you're doing if all they see is more bondage, more turmoil, confusing narratives and short tempered people. Ephesians 4:15,16, Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
If we want to be building up instead of tearing down, we need to do so in a way that makes people ask why we choose to be so different. How we can turn the other cheek when we're so ruffly betrayed, how we can stand to face another day in such a world that gets worse and worse as the days go on. This is the only way to get those peoples' attention. And this alone.
May YHWH be near each of you, guiding you; giving you the words to say at the appropriate timing to those in whom we come in contact with. May we learn to hold our tongues when people shout mean things against us. May we continue to fight the good fight, without giving so much thought as to what mere people think of us.
Blessings on your journey,
the elder sister & writer