The Great Commission of Matthew 28 mandates all Christians to disciple others. But prior to discipleship is evangelism: spreading the gospel through our conversations and relationships. Because the gospel is by nature controversial, these conversations can be tricky.
Our unbelieving friends need the truth of the gospel. But how do we discuss the biblical approach to controversial topics? We should make every effort not to offend others with our personalities—but the gospel itself is offensive. This leaves us wondering how to preserve our friendships while staying true to our convictions.
Discussing politics, policies, religion and worldview with non-Christians is a must for every believer. But there is a way to go about it that honors God and respects people. Here are some tips for handling it.
Seek to Understand
Don’t come into a controversial conversation determined to be right. While we do know the biblical approach to many of these topics (and if not, you should be researching them!), the first step to a peaceful discussion is to seek understanding. Ask your unbelieving friends why they believe what they believe. How did they arrive at those conclusions?
Note that understanding someone is not the same as agreeing with them. Don’t nod or say “yes” to anything that isn’t biblical. Just listen.
Listening is the most underrated act of evangelism in the church. Everyone wants to be heard! When we refuse to listen to the viewpoints of others, we fail to defend our faith effectively. We need to know what unbelievers think about controversial issues in order to address those same issues from a biblical perspective.
Listen, listen, listen. Let your friend talk, ask further questions and take note of how they arrive at their conclusions about life, death and eternity. Meanwhile, be thinking about how you can answer the underlying questions from Scripture.
Explain Without Getting Emotional
When it’s your turn to talk, don’t be ruled by your emotions. Some things that non-Christians say might offend you; be patient. Remember the example of Jesus! Try to see past any offensive words, language or remarks to the heart of what is being said. Is it motivated by fear? Is it based on a bad experience with Christianity? Stay on the emotional high ground by rooting your confidence in Christ’s promise to give you the words to say in the hour you need them (Luke 12:12).
As you explain your stance, root it in Scripture. This is why it is so important that you study the Bible like a pastor does. All of us are ministers of the gospel, and we need to be ready to defend our faith, knowing what we believe and why we believe it.
Stay True to Biblical Principles
As you listen and discuss, controlling your emotions and explaining your own opinions, stay true to the Bible’s words. Check your thoughts against Scripture. Is what you’re explaining biblical or cultural?
For instance, if you’re talking about racism, you can explain that God sees all races as equal in value. Christ died for all (2 Corinthians 5:15) and all mankind is descended from one father (Romans 5:12, Genesis 5:1). Any abuse of a particular race by the church—past or present—is in direct rebellion against God’s design. Christianity—the true Christianity according to Christ and the early church—is firmly set against racism. Those who claim to be Christians while refusing to share God’s love with all races are sinning against Jesus and the people He loves:
For judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith, but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? (James 2:13-14)
This is just one example of a controversial discussion and how to defend it with biblical principles. Study God’s Word so you are equipped to do the same! The things you put into your mind will equip you for any moment you are called to give a defense for the hope within you.