intersect: rules of engagement
INTERSECT (Where the Bible Meets Life) is a regular column of ONE Magazine featuring Dr. Garnett Reid, a member of the Bible faculty at Free Will Baptist Bible College. Email Garnett firstname.lastname@example.org
My dad loved boxing. Heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey was his hero. “Only man I ever saw who could knock a man out with a six-inch punch,” he’d say in admiration of the Manassas Mauler. As the truth of the Bible comes under increasing attack, we must be, like Paul, “set for the defense of the gospel.” “Fight the good fight of faith,” he challenged Timothy.
Yet as we contend for truth, there are some rules of engagement we must follow. Not all is fair in this war! Read carefully 2 Timothy 2:22-26 and you’ll see that we owe our opponents some things.
We owe them love from a pure heart and a holy life.
Christians who resist error must at the same time be pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace in their own lives. “Call on the Lord from a pure heart”—that is, be the kind of person who prays sincerely for those who oppose the truth. Our actions must not give them cause to point a finger at us and say that we claim one thing but live another (check out 1 Peter 3:16).
We owe them answers without belligerence.
Don’t have an angry spirit, Paul urges, “but be kind to everyone.” Stay away from quarrels and skirmishes that are of no value. When you must discuss disagreements, however, do so in love. Listen to your opponents and do not misrepresent what they say.
Remember, you are “the Lord’s servant” and personal attacks are out of line. Love is truth’s ally (Ephesians 4:15). We try to “correct with gentleness” those who disagree with us.
We owe them a reasoned defense of Biblical truth.
As opposition to the gospel increases in our culture, we must be “able to teach” as never before. Careful study of the Scriptures is not optional for any Christian.
Logical thinking is essential as well since truth is always reasonable. We must know what we’re talking about or we’ll have no voice in the conversation. Emotion-based tirades usually stray into faulty thinking. Yet where reason and passion meet in defense of truth, we experience the deepest level of belief.
We owe them the real hope of God’s deliverance from error.
In a day when society ridicules anyone who claims that someone else is wrong, Christians need reminding that error still exists. Our goal, though, in standing for the truth must be redemptive. In fact, the church often grows during times of controversy.
We must believe that God is at work to change the thinking of those entangled in the devil’s snare. The defender of truth must teach, correct, and persuade with patience, trusting the Lord of truth to wear down the enemy’s stronghold. No heavyweight contender he can send against us can match truth’s Champion.