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5 Tips for Debating without Embarrassing Christ

800px-Kennedy_Nixon_Debat_(1960)It’s hard to read the comments on a YouTube video or blog post and not feeling like you’re dredging the bottom of the human experience. When you combine contrary personal opinions and anonymity, people can get awful.

Christians aren’t immune to getting sucked into these squabbles. Whether they’re debating the existence of God with an atheist or setting each other straight on some biblical principle, you’ll often find them online—guns blazing.

If you feel absolutely compelled to weigh in on online debates, here are some quick tips to stop from making Jesus look ridiculous:

1. Just relax

You’re not curing cancer here. Whatever debate you’re currently embroiled in may seem like a big deal right now, but in less than a week, you’ll have forgotten about it. Chances are very good that nobody’s opinion will be different at the end of this discussion.

Step back and ask yourself, “What’s my end goal here?” And more importantly, “What’s my exit strategy?” If you can’t answer those two questions, find something valuable and constructive to do.

2. Don’t be provoked

The internet is teeming with trolls. Their only goal is to poke at you until you lose it—don’t oblige them. Don’t be condescending, don’t be rude, don’t call be people names, and for God’s sake, DON’T START TYPING IN ALL CAPS.

3. Don’t make winning the goal

The web provides awesome opportunities to dialog with people who see things differently. To challenge each other’s perspectives, and hopefully learn to respect opposing opinions (believe it or not, yours is not the world’s only valid viewpoint).

I’ve never seen anyone “win” an argument in a comment thread. I can’t even imagine what winning would look like. I’m not sure I’ve seen someone abandon their faith or denominational principles in the heat of an online debate. In fact, they seem to get more entrenched—not less.

I have, however, seen Christians who’ve laid out airtight, rational arguments but have lost the debate by virtue of their behavior.

4. Practice some humility

Nothing is more refreshing (and somewhat disarming) than someone who can argue a conviction with a generous spirit. Try listen to the other person. Acknowledge interesting, intelligently presented points. If you have the guts, you can even admit that you might be wrong.

A lot of Christian debates get started when someone definitively states their denominational, religious, or political opinion as if it’s definitive, inarguable truth. It takes a pretty reasonable person to accept the fact that there are intelligent, educated, and sincere people who, when presented with the same data, will come to a different conclusion.

5. Don’t forget, Jesus loves this individual

I know it sounds trite, but Jesus came and offered his life because people are intrinsically valuable to him—even if they believe stupid things. If you’re a follower of his, you are partnering with him to redeem this world to himself.

You don’t have to argue every person into believing in the Gospel, but don’t behave in a way that’s going to make it harder for them. It doesn’t matter how terribly they talk to you. The onus is on you to be respectful and loving. Their disrespect does not release you to be a jerk.

A lot of internet discussion is noise and clutter. If you can’t treat people with love, you’re just another clanging cymbal in the cyber cacophony.

Jayson Bradley

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. All great, but Tip 5 – inspired wisdom. Well done, Jayson.

    August 14, 2013
  2. KeninWA #

    thank you for reminding believers that we are His hands and feet [and sometimes His mouth]
    we need to be more interested in pointing people to Jesus than winning an argument

    August 14, 2013
  3. Kelly Vander Woude #

    I’ve had numerous conversations online with non-believers…and my rule has ALWAYS been to “end” my thoughts with “Shalom” or something peaceful (“May your day be filled with peace and happiness in all that you do”). Because when I force myself to do that then I also force myself to speak with love, humility, and peace during the “discussions”. Simple trick….makes me (and hopefully others) less defensive and antagonistic.

    August 14, 2013
  4. It’s amazing how much the internet has changed the way we interact with people. So often, we would never even consider saying some of the things we do online when speaking to someone face to face. I love this post and appreciate your heart. Thanks for sharing!

    August 15, 2013
  5. bearshouse #

    i’ve found the longer a reply, the less of it gets read. i can read a printed page fully but the computer screen yields to skimming and scanning. when someone replies with more than a paragraph, i think they need to make that a separate blog entry elsewhere.

    so i would add, keep it short, direct and simple.

    August 19, 2013
  6. Thank you for this. I’m sharing. I used your “hoax sharing” post as a jumping-off place for a discussion at a Bible study. Went well. 🙂 This one might be next. I had to LOL at the ALL CAPS WARNING! We really should not have to be told, should we? Blessings!

    August 22, 2013
  7. Jerry Godfrey #

    Bulls eye – with one 5 point message you got me. I like to win, and I like to be right, but is that what God desires of me in a given situation? Exemplary sage advice Jayson.

    August 22, 2013
  8. Eiolgj #

    I can easily become argumentative, yep. The recommendations for humility and for remembering the Love of Jesus should be able to lead us toward a more loving attitude in our answers. For one thing, it is NOT our job to “save” another person. That is God’s job, through the saving grace of Jesus. And we are NOT SAVED by stating or believing the “correct” interpretation of a particular scripture. We are saved by the action of Jesus on the cross, BEFORE we ever came to those particular religious/political beliefs. If I can claim that I, in spite of my argumentative nature, was called and saved by Jesus, then I need to extend that loving viewpoint toward others who are also loved by God enough to be included under his saving Grace.

    August 22, 2013

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