As a Christian, How Should I Respond When Others Disagree with My Convictions?
- Candice Lucey Contributing Writer
- 2020 30 Jul
God has given us a mission: “go and make disciples of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:20) He knew we would face disagreement, even outright rejection from unbelievers.
If you’re feeling pressured and intimidated by Jesus’ command, then remember that he is not pressuring you; he is anointing and affirming your desire to share the good news.
Talking with non-believers about Christ is critical, but difficult. Jesus knew that. Paul knew that. That’s why the Bible teaches us how to handle disagreement:
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. – Colossians 4:5-6
Here are five tips on how to respond when others disagree with your Christian convictions, from Colossians 4:5-6.
1. Be Wise
Colossians 4:5 begins, Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders.
Knowledge is not wisdom. You can have a PhD and be a fool: it’s all about how you use what you learn. One thing you know with certainty—God is in control. So what does he want you to do, or to say to an unbeliever? Ask God for wisdom instead of trying to sound clever and win a soul for Christ.
James 1:5 instructs, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” You don’t know what’s in the heart of this person in front of you, or what he’s thinking. Don’t assume. Humbly ask the Lord for instruction, and he’ll give it to you.
Cleverness doesn’t win souls; the Holy Spirit does. Ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Opportunities for discussion are often short...too short to get across more than one point. You will need God to show you which point to make. Don’t worry if your efforts seem to make little impact right now. It could be hours, days, weeks, or years before your words of truth and wisdom mean anything to an unbeliever, perhaps after many more conversations with other Christians.
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2. Make the Most of This Opportunity
Colossians 4:5 continues, ...make the most of every opportunity. When someone is actively disagreeing with everything you have to say about Christ, think of it this way: disagreement is still two people talking. It’s an open door, and you have the chance to keep the conversation going.
People love it when someone wants to know what they think. Ask lots of questions. Be prepared to hear things that you don’t like or agree with. Really listen to the individual. Demonstrate willingness to pay attention:
- Sit down and gesture for the other person to sit too. This shows that you are interested.
- Turn and face the person, make eye contact.
- Use gestures periodically which show you are listening, such as nodding.
- Uncross your arms to demonstrate openness; crossed arms suggest defensiveness.
- Reflect back some of what the person is saying with statements that start with “so, you’re saying” or “it sounds like you’re saying” and don’t be offended if the person says “no, no, that’s not it at all.” Listen patiently.
When the person seems to have stopped talking, you have the chance to make this a conversation, so be ready to contribute. Your warmth and respect have opened this individual to your point of view, so honor that and share your thoughts in a non-confrontational but honest way.
The best way to do that is to make “I” statements, personal observations about God in your life. Avoid criticism or accusation.
3. Show Grace
Pressure tactics didn’t win your heart for Christ—and they won’t win anyone else over, either. His love, truth, and grace bring people to a saving knowledge of himself.
Many of our friends, family, and neighbors think differently from us, so how should we respond when they say “Christ was just a good man,” or “there is no God?” Christ faced rejection and he prepared us for it: “if the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)
Be prepared for disagreements. Many people have no idea why Jesus had to die, and you were once one of those people. Your views are opposed, but this unbeliever is not your opponent or your enemy.
God sent Jesus to die for every sinner. Both of you were made in God’s image, but Christ reached you with his grace, not with threats, arguments, and judgment. As Justin Holcomb contends in this article, “Judgment kills. Only grace makes alive.” Moreover, “God’s grace grounds and empowers everything in the Christian life."
That’s everything, including conversations with unbelievers. This isn’t about you. You were invited into this very situation by the grace of God, and by his grace you have accepted the invitation to glorify him.
As a result, he might use you to plant a seed or throw fertilizer into the soil.
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4. “Season” Your Conversation with “Salt”
Why salt? This article explains, “Salt was used as an instrument to reduce the corruption of meat and other foods so that they could be edible for a longer period. Christians who obey God and do his will serve as a preservative of the human race and the earth by slowing down the moral and spiritual decay of the world around them.”
You are “salt” if you blend the truth of Christ into conversation with unbelievers. You “maximize [your] ability to ‘flavor’ or bless others” when you share the gospel truthfully and personally.
But you mustn’t mix truth with lies or hyperbole. “When true believers mix into themselves things like false doctrines, they lose their purity and their originally intended goal.”
As you share the good news, don’t be tempted to make God’s word more acceptable to others by combining it with ideas from other beliefs as a way to manipulate them into agreement with you.
Don’t exaggerate what God has done in your life either. Be real. Your true testimony is full of flavor because it is full of Christ, and Christ’s love is greater than we can imagine. Hyperbole is unnecessary.
5. So That You May Know How to Answer
Colossians 4:6 ends with, ...so that you may know how to answer everyone.
The person opposite you is looking for answers. In this article, Rhonda Stoppe says, “You’d be surprised how many people feel lonely, invisible, and without value,” but if they can just imagine there might be “a God who created, knows, and cares for them,” through you, God can cause them “to long to believe it is true––even if their response may seem otherwise.”
When someone argues that there can’t be a God because of all the bad things that happen in the world, she is actually looking for an answer—so be ready with one. Avoid a patronizing stock answer and tenderly respond to what this person is saying to you right now.
If there is a God, this person needs to know that she is seen, and needs to believe that this same God has changed you. Demonstrate how the Lord has made a positive difference without giving you a perfect life. Be broken and real, but not brash. “Your kindness and interest [...] might open the door for you to kindly share biblically-founded reasons to believe in God” which are relatable, if you have been listening to this person fully and have asked God for wisdom.
A bit of vulnerability shows that Christians don’t have to have it all together, just don’t make the conversation all about you. Stoppe reminds us, “it’s not up to you to persuade them to surrender––that’s the Spirit’s work.”
Disagreements with unbelievers are opportunities for discussion, for you to personally surrender to the Holy Spirit, and to experience joyful participation in the Lord’s work. One day, you might even be there on that glorious day when a person gives his or her life to Jesus.
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.