How will they hear the truth?

September 5, 2009


I’ve never really been a fan of debate.  My first official debate that wasn’t against a sibling took place in eighth grade.  The topic was gun control.  I was rebutting the pro-gun control side’s argument and, in my memory at least, I failed miserably.  I think I ended up mumbling something about sticks, stones, returning to the stone-age and sitting down.  Not the brightest beginning to a career in debate…

Nathan and I debated a Jewish Rabbi a couple of days ago and I have to say, I still don’t like debate.  Things went a little better than my first one, but I’ve found that debate always leaves me with questions.  Not about my arguments per say, but about debate itself.  Did it do any good?  Did anyone really listen to find answers?

Many times I think debate ends up actually alienating people more than than helping, because it re-emphasizes the divisions between “experts” and “non-experts”, reinforcing people’s suspicions that “Because I can’t harmonize Luke and Matthew’s genealogies, or explain every Old Testament reference found in the New Testament I don’t have anything to offer.”

In the end, the biggest thing I dislike about debate is seems to put being right and being a jerk on the same side because if you don’t dominate the conversation you’re probably going to be mischaracterized and misunderstood.  In short order, its a set up for being a jerk.

Where is service?  Where is laying our lives down?  Where is sacrifice when “winning” has become the goal?  Ugh.  In my experience debate usually ends up obscuring the loving Christ the moment it throws the suffering servant in to the cage match.  There are good arguments to be made, and Christ is by no means defenseless, but ultimately when God made his case he came and lived among us to do it.

For me, the benefit of the 96 minutes we spent on Skype that Friday evening, was that it brought me back to the God who goes.  The God who does not shout his message from the clouds, but rather moves in to my neighborhood, sits next to us in the same dirty clothes, with the same shoeless feet and the same poverty and redeems it.

Last Sunday Nathan and I talked with a Dutch missionary to India.  While he told us many things over the hour we talked, one of the first stories he told us was of moving to India to teach at the largest Bible college in Asia (without any formal Bible training).  Though he could have lived in millionaire type luxury–with cars, drivers, nice housing and furnishings–he felt Jesus leading him to live in the slums, literally in the garbage dump with the poorest of India’s poor, loving them, telling them about Jesus and building schools.  Something tells me that Jesus often returns to the slums, and that seldom does he spend his time there debating.

I guess the main thing for me is that my life would bear this same sort of reality.  That the place I inhabit and the way I live itself would tell of a humble servant king and who loves from amid the garbage, stench and disease and who is coming again to reform and redeem it all under his reign.

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3 Responses to “How will they hear the truth?”

  1. Mom Says:

    Good word there, Joey. Winning battles is an empty stand in when losing wars. You speak to a need to a society that values academia over love, self over others. It helps me personally to esteem the mercy and hope we find in Jesus at new levels-it certainly isn’t my own sufficiency that touches the need in this world and neighborhood.

  2. Katie Says:

    I really loved this post and so value your insight into this matter, specifically. Amen and amen.

  3. Abby Says:

    I am left with one question: Where are the slums in my life?
    I am not left with this because I am such an all-loving, all-sacrificing person, but because the picture you draw here is of the Jesus I want to be a disciple of. I’m tired of just believing in what Jesus did on the cross. I want to see it in my life.
    Thanks for good thoughts to think about and challenge me.


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