"Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame." 1st Peter 3:13-16
Historically, the world has either sought to tame Christianity (dilution and assimilation) or hunt it to extinction (persecution). By the grace of God, His remnant continues to persevere and mature through both. Even in these parasitic and aggressive environments, Christians can and should risk good conversations.
Can a distinction be made between respecting someone’s beliefs and respecting someone’s right to hold their own beliefs?
Is it possible to respect a person and respect that person’s freedom to hold a belief, yet reject what they believe?
Is there a way to be open-eared (sincere, respectful listening) but still guard your mind (the Apostle Peter would say, “Be sober-minded”)?
A good discussion needs horsepower and lots of it, but it also needs a transmission. Just because a transmission is in neutral or reverse doesn’t reduce the horsepower available. Silence, listening, even backing up and rearticulating thoughts don’t require us to turn off the ignition to our beliefs, but without the right application of timing and gearing that a transmission offers, the horsepower of our beliefs are rendered useless, or worse, destructive. I have a 1972 Ford Crew Cab 4X4 powered by a big block 460 ARR! ARR! ARR! I had a young man borrow it once who wasn’t familiar with the concept of a transmission (at least not a manual). He turned the key, fired up them horses, and drove right over my wife’s tree and almost into my well house.
There are also specific places and times to use our transmissions in different ways. A suburban neighborhood is probably not the place to lock in both axles, drop into second at 4,000 RPMs, and power-shift into third. Ms. Mable, greeting people at the local grocery store with a sweet “Good morning” would probably not profit from a curt Socratic inquisition into the axiological implications of “good!”
It is equally inappropriate (and arguably dangerous) to idle your way through a demolition derby. Respect never calls us to compromise what we know to be true.
While it is never okay to plow over someone (especially just for the fun of it), discussions can foster a safe place to get off the road, rev up those engines, and let the mud fly a bit.