Back from the weekend internet desert…
OKÃ¢â‚¬Â¦now hereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the dilemma I find I get myself intoÃ¢â‚¬Â¦but I feel you can help me clarify this in my mind. I believe in absolute truth. And yet, in situations like youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve described here, with the Hindu, (very similar to what I deal with on my blog in some ways with some of the visitors I get) how do you declare that your truth is absolute without offending them to the point that you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be agreeable? I sometimes feel like I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t speak the truth plainly enough and yet, I doÃ¢â‚¬Â¦I really think I do. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know. Can you give me a word of encouragment about thisÃ¢â‚¬Â¦”#”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=108#comment-269
Good question. Honestly, I think the way you would handle this is going to vary a bit, depending on your audience. To some extent, we have to do exactly as Christ instructed — declare our faith with boldness. Sure, this is going to offend some people, maybe even a lot of people, but Christianity is offensive to those who want to live life on their own terms. They don’t like to be told that the things they do and believe, that the way they have lived their lives is wrong and displeasing to an Almighty God. But the only way they are going to know is if someone tells them.
Now, this does not mean that we have to be harsh and cruel about it. Tact is a virtue. With people who are more understanding and not quick to anger, I am usually able to speak with a greater degree of frankness without having to worry about using exactly the right phrases and words to avoid stepping on their personal sensibilities. With people who are, in my opinion, more insecure, I try to speak openly and honestly about what I believe and why without using dialogue that is abrasive. Essentially, I share what I believe, that I hold that my beliefs are right and true and the _only_ way to live and believe, without trying to force anyone to believe as I do. I try to always make it clear that I can’t make anyone think the way I do and that I am not trying to. Part of this requires me to treat the viewpoints and opinions of others with respect, even if I disagree, and if I can poke holes in their arguments, I will do so (even though this is not usually well-received). But part of discoursing about what is truth and what is not requires people to talk and share and pick apart each others’ arguments.
One of my favorite philosophers is Francis Schaeffer, and it was his ministry to tear apart the inaccurate philosophies and worldviews and demonstrate why those philosophies could not be held with any kind of consistency. He showed time and again how the philosophy of the Bible was the only one that could be adhered to consistently. Yet, he was not ‘offensive’ about it, _per se_, though he offended a great many people by demonstrating the untruths of their philosophies.
It is impossible to live the Christian life well without offending other people. Christ said that we would be hated by the world for our beliefs, and we see this every day. But it is possible to have agreeable discourse with those who disagree with our beliefs. Really, I think the biggest part of attaining this is maintaining respect for people who disagree. Those Christians who lose respect with the world and who find they cannot minister effectively are typically those who treat the world with condescension and snide behavior. It is impossible to share Christ when you make yourself better than Christ.