As Thanksgiving approaches, you are likely to be surrounded by a few (or maybe many) family members who you would love to see trust in Christ. However, when conversations about the Savior come up, it can easily turn into an argument. Both sides run down rabbit trails and talk over each other to prove their points, which ultimately leads to everybody leaving the discussion frustrated.
How can you avoid this? How can you share the most important message you’ve ever received with someone you dearly care about – but without it becoming an argument? Allow me to share a new approach to consider this Thanksgiving.
In 2 Timothy 2:23-24, Paul outlines three qualities that will accomplish so much more than arguments ever will. They are qualities that are bathed in humility. He said to Timothy,
“But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient.” (NKJV [emphasis mine])
Let’s look at each of these a little closer.
Gentle to All
This has the idea of being approachable in your demeanor, a person who is easy to talk to, never one that is sarcastic or rude.
The people we speak with about the Lord have opinions. They may be right or wrong, but they have them. They want the freedom to express them. I once shared the gospel with a person that came from a Hindu family. He lost no time in telling me, “I do not believe what Hindus believe. I think after you die you have one more chance, then that’s it. I may be wrong, but I want the right to be wrong.”
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What they need from us is an attitude that, even though we strongly disagree, they feel free to express their thoughts, knowing we will not treat them as ignorant or stupid. Why should we? If we want them to listen to what we have to tell them, shouldn’t we demonstrate an attitude in which we are approachable about what they want to tell us? The one thing they should pick up in our demeanor is that even though we may disagree with them they can still talk to us.
Able to Teach
The key word there is the word “able”. It does not say or mean “proud to teach”, but “able to teach”. It is referring to a sincere desire and willingness to lead them to the truth, a desire to impress them with His intelligence, not with ours. It’s the kind of attitude that comes across as, “If you have time, I would love to explain something to you,” not “If you had any brains, you would already know this.” In other words, you come alongside of people; you don’t come down on them.
That ability to teach sometimes requires that we lead them one step at a time into a recognition and acknowledgment of the truth. If they came from a rigid background, or one where their beliefs were steeped in tradition, a morsel of truth one conversation and another morsel the next conversation may cause them to question what they have been taught. After all, what you are sharing with them could be a bit threatening from their point of view. But gradually becoming uncomfortable with what they have been told may cause them to listen more intently to what you are telling them.
Patience refers to a forbearing attitude toward someone in opposition of your message. Even if a friend or family member is impatient with you, you must avoid being impatient with them. The truth is, the way someone responds as they are convicted by the Holy Spirit may not always be a pleasant experience to witness. Anger may cause words to surface that are quite insulting.
But your patience becomes very important since you do not know what may be happening in their life or going through their mind. There may be many reasons for irritation. Perhaps they have not told you they’re living with a person outside of marriage, selling drugs on the side, trying to conquer an alcohol addiction, or unsure how other family and friends would respond if they came to Christ.
Your forbearing attitude expressed in a calm demeanor could be life-changing. A couple once said to me, “It didn’t matter how much we got irritated with you; you never got irritated with us.” That patience allowed me to later lead them to the Savior.
This Thanksgiving, remember that hostile arguments are not what lead people to Christ. It’s a humble attitude expressed through gentleness, an ability to teach, and patience that can break through defenses, overcome objections, and create an openness to the gospel. Each of us would benefit by evaluating our own behavior. As we share our faith, particularly if it is with someone who resists our message, how would they describe our demeanor – haughty and hostile or gracious and gentle?