We are in the midst of a storm…a storm of opinions and outrage. We live in a world where opinions are cheap and discourse is a lost art. It all about yelling louder than the other side and then plugging your ears so that you don’t have to hear their retort. Then the process of yelling and ear plugging begins anew. Everyone wants to offer their views on a subject, but most do not want to discuss the issue. People, for the most part, are not interested in listening to the other side and agreeing to disagree.
So what does this mean for student ministry? I think it’s important to look at Jesus’ example for how we should respond in this culture of strong opinions and outrage. Lets take a look at Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees. This is definitely a relationship that had 2 diametrically opposed sides that had many public debates (and a few private ones).
- Know that people will try and bait you into responding in a way that dishonors Christ- Over 20 times in the Gospels you see words like argued, tested, trapped, and watched to show us that the Pharisees were not interested in open dialogue. They wanted to win and argument instead of discuss a topic. They did not have a spirit of learning, but a spirit of opposition. We even see one Pharisee in Luke 11:37-53 invite Jesus into his own house not to be be hospitable, but to try and trap him in a battle of wits and words. We, as Christians, do not need to have a spirit of opposition. We need to honor Christ even when faced with difficult discussions and even more difficult people. Check out Colossians 4:6
- When they tried to bait him, he responded with Truth- Multiple times (Matthew 16:1-4, Matthew 12:38-42, and Mark 8:11-12) In all of these situations the Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign. Jesus doesn’t yell or share his personal opinion. He responds with truth and answers their request. He tells them that they will see the sign of Jonah. This means that after the grave swallows Jesus that 3 days later He will be back.
- There are times to be silent- We need to take to heart Proverbs 10:19 and know that more words aren’t the answer for winning someone over with our opinions. Jesus was silent when confronted by false testimony when on trial in front of the Jewish religious leaders in Matthew 26:57-63 We need to learn and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in being silent during difficult discussions.
- It’s easier to share when you have a relationship- We do see one Pharisee seek Jesus out to have a one on one conversation about the things Jesus had been teaching in John 3:1-21. Nicodemus came not to war with Jesus through words and opinions, but rather to have a discourse with Him about the things He had been teaching about to the crowds. The meeting wasn’t one of dissension, but of seeking understanding. Nicodemus did not understand the truth that Jesus shared with him that night, but we do see a change in him in 2 other instances he shows up in the Gospel. In John 7:50-51 we see Nicodemus talking to his colleagues in Pharisees about hearing and learning from a man before he is judged and then in John 19:39-42 we see him bring the embalming spices to complete the burial process for Jesus after He died on the cross. Instead of Nicodemus shouting in a crowd about what Jesus was teaching and plotting against Jesus in back rooms like other Jewish religious leaders, he sought to have a discussion with Jesus. He didn’t completely understand Jesus’ point of view at first, but we see through the progression of Nicodemus in the book of John that his perspective was changed through wrestling with truth that Jesus was sharing with him.
Strong opinions abound in our culture and because of social media and the internet people feel no remorse about sharing their opinions and not having open discourse about said opinions. We as believers need to learn from Jesus’ example with dealing with people he strongly disagreed and learn how to share the Truth in love. We need to cultivate personal relationships with people in order to win them to the Truth. We won’t win them all, but shouting about our beliefs in social media aren’t solving anything.