Truth is Truth

"You, O LORD, will not withhold Your compassion from me; Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me." - Psalm 40:11 This is a sometimes monthly column concerning the truth of Christ Jesus and the issues that face our world as published in various newspapers and journals by Pastor Dave Seaford. You can return to the home page of the church by going to:

My Photo
Location: Redway, California, United States

Friday, September 29, 2017

To Win the Argument OR To Engage the Soul

I had an interesting conversation yesterday. Two members of our church asked that I make a trip out to visit a man that is "hurting and confused". This is not necessarily an unusual request in our ministry and so I agreed without much thought or frankly preparation for the work at hand. Yes, I did ask appropriate questions about the "hurting and confused" issues, and did get some answers more related to emotion than theology and this too is not unusual. Many if not most people these days frame much of what they believe around emotional responses to difficult issues in their lives. Many cults and false religions have largely based their growth and success on this reality.

After a long drive crossing rivers into the woods of Northern California, I faced a most interesting conversation because, while it was likely rooted in a truly devastating situation in this man's life, it was also framed around what I believe is this man search for an authority he thinks he can follow safely. While this is my opinion now I could not have formed this opinion until the conversation unfolded. It is also important to remember that I had little framework for this exchange and had no idea what to expect before we were chest deep.

What I got was a grilling to (in my estimation) disqualify me as an authority of the scriptures. This man set up this exchange by expressing anger to me about others he had engaged in the past. If they disagreed with him, he grew angry and refused to accept that they had anything to contribute.

He then asked me: "Why was Aaron given to Moses by God?" All kinds of things ran through my mind? Was he asking literally, theologically or philosophically? Did he have the initial conversation Moses had with God about his stuttering problem in mind, or the issue with the golden calf? Or was it least 50 other things that ran through my mind? So I asked him for clarification by asking him: "What do you think the purpose was"? ...He refused to answer and became a little aggressive in demanding an answer from me. When I further sought clarification he said because Moses could not speak for himself. After which he immediately asked how many children Aaron had. Since I did not recall the Bible addressing the number of children Aaron had (only the number of sons, which was also likely not to be a complete genealogy (Number 3:2) since this text was focusing on the sons that Aaron ordained as priests...and not the total number of "children") I said I did not know how may total children Aaron had, and he immediately said 4 based on the Numbers passage, and played me an audio of that passage. Quickly he followed up by asking what two of the sons did? That is a rather open question that certainly had no context, but I assumed he was thinking of the event where two of Aaron's sons as burned "strange fire" before God. As I started by saying that they had done what they ought not have done and were instructed not to do..., I was cut off and he finished the story line.

I then asked this man who actually spoke to Pharaoh when Aaron and Moses did go to him. Given that this man had memorized so many details and that this was a rather common knowledge question, I thought this would open up the conversation to more important issues than factoids and statistics. When the man angrily answered wrong, I just shrugged my shoulders a bit before he rattled off 5 or 6 more questions, which I was also not given an opportunity to answer.

So the question I continue to ask myself relates to the 1 Peter 3:16 mandate to engage people like with with "gentleness and respect". My thought in this particular situation was that my opportunities to engage this person again in the future and possibly talk to him about really important issues for him was more important than winning the debate, or interrupting him to demand finishing my answers to his questions. Bottom line is that his questions, while not difficult once one knew what his actual question was, were actually less important than eventually getting this man answers that will make a difference in his life. His questions were only designed to measure someone's basic knowledge of the Bible in a sort of "Gameshow" format. The answers I desperately want him to know regard the knowledge of who God is and how he can have a loving relationship with He and His children.

Time will tell if I made the right choices. Now I ask for your prayers with regards to this man and for me should I have another opportunity to interact with him!

Gentleness and Respect... while giving an answer to anyone who asks the reason for the hope that is in you! What a mandate. What a challenge!