If you need some wisdom for navigating heated discussions, tough conversations and sticky situations, here are 4 suggestions right from Scripture:
Correct Gently (2 Timothy 2:23-26)
Paul clearly lays things out for us when it comes to our involvement in arguments—have nothing to do with them. There aren’t any exceptions or asterisks to that exhortation either. He doesn’t command us to abstain from arguing just for our own good; others are not easily convicted unless we ourselves are kind and gentle in our approach to conversation. The advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not happen through emotionally-charged heel-digging comebacks in a battle of “I want the last word” with another individual. Paul says that we are to hear what others have to say and listen to their questions carefully. Then, respond out of a gentle heart and kindness for the other person. If you demonstrate that you respect them in your approach to the answer, they will be more willing to hear you. If not, then you’ve done all that you can do—Paul doesn’t suggest that we will immediately convert others to Christianity. God may lead them to a knowledge of the Truth if they repent, but our capability is not manipulating another’s heart; our capability in these types of situations is correcting others gently and kindly [while enduring evil] and trusting that God will rescue them from devil.
Season with Salt (Colossians 4:5-6)
The NIV translation of verse 5 is “Make the most of every opportunity.” (Here, opportunity refers to a chance to tell them about the Good News). This is Paul’s encouragement to not waste a chance at sharing the Gospel with outsiders.
While there are a couple different applications on “salt” here, we’ll choose to focus on the most prominent one: having our speech seasoned with salt means that what we say should be “tasty” and encourage further dialogue. Paul includes “gracious” before “seasoned with salt” to infer that speaking graciously is a necessary component to furthering the conversation. Grace is something that is welcomed and appreciated by most people, believer or nonbeliever—not many people will reject grace when extended to them. Likewise, most people will not reject conversation that is filled with grace and “seasoned with salt”. So, if your words encourage further conversation, be assured that you are seasoning your speech correctly.
[If Paul’s reference on the importance of salt isn’t enough, it may help to look up what Jesus says about salt (Matthew 5:13, Mark 9:50, Luke 14:34).]
Walk Wisely (Ephesians 5:15-17)
This comes right out of a passage where Paul outlines how the Ephesians are supposed to be “children of the Light.” (Eph. 5:8) Paul instructs that they are supposed to live in the light and to expose fruitless deeds of darkness. (Eph. 5:11) This infers that any deed that does not bear fruit and is of darkness should not be hidden from God—whether that be committed by the believer or the unbeliever. (If committed by the unbeliever, of course addressing this fruitless deed is going to be more difficult and could potentially bring about some tension. But that doesn’t negate the importance of exposing the darkness.)
Why does Paul say the Ephesians should be wise in how they walk? Consider, if what the Ephesians instruct others to do isn’t what they were actually doing themselves, then it would come across as hypocritical to those unbelievers. He also says that they should walk wisely because the days are evil. First he gives an encouragement about setting an example for others, and now he cautions against walking into the evil of the world. If not approached carefully and intentionally, one may end up walking down the wrong path and not notice until it’s too late. At the end he caps it off with “understand what the will of the Lord is…”—that’s for another blog post…
Be Prepared to Respond (1 Peter 3:15-16)
Peter encourages Christians to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that they have, but to do so gently and respectfully—with a good conscience. We often downplay the value of defending our beliefs because we think, “These are my beliefs. You don’t have to agree with them if you don’t want to.” But Peter charges us to state the reason for our hope—Jesus—and to do so gently and respectfully; those who revile your good behavior in Christ are more likely to hear and understand the true impact of that hope if relayed in a way that uplifts and encourages. Moreover, Peter suggests that, if the listener is an unbeliever, you will more than likely receive some pushback or rejection when you proclaim the name of Jesus. Only if you’re completely satisfied in Christ can you withstand any backlash, slander or reviling. The human heart wants to feel good and fulfill its own desires but a heart of God wants only to fulfill God’s desires. Prepare your hearts and honor Christ in your hearts. If you do that, when you are slandered, those who do so will be convicted of their wrongdoing.