Dealing with the Contentious

V. came to our Bible study last Thursday. He was hardly receptive, blasting our newest worker with dozens of ridiculous questions, then wasting half an hour of my time with his dodging. The contentious always dodge. They avoid the real issue, the dark condition of their heart and the hope of eternal life in Christ, by veering off into dead-end arguments. We’ve all caught ourselves arguing with people like V. before. Strangely enough, though I’ve never lost an argument like that, I’ve never won one, either.

Living in a Communist, atheist country, there’s no shortage of people like V. If you desire to have a ministry among the Chinese (and anywhere else, as far as I can tell) you have to learn to deal with the contentious. Here are some ideas about handling these situations that we have gathered from other ministries, and that we have used lately with some success:

1. Play to the conscience – If we are to believe Romans 1 and 2, every living man has the law of God written in their heart and a constant reminder of the existence of God in Creation. Their thoughts and their conscience accuse them. So, when we deal with the contentious, though it’s tempting to Ray-Comfort-’em into oblivion, it seems to be much more effective to trust that their conscience already is convicting them. When V. told me the other night that he thought belief in God was a way to keep the masses under control (funny coming from a Communist), I said, “Okay. You can think what you want. But the Bible says you know that there’s a God, and your conscience tells you he’s real.” Not a lot of eye contact at that point…

2. Challenge them to read the Bible – I asked V., “For someone who knows so much about how the Bible is false, I imagine you’ve read it before.” He kind of laughed and admitted rather sheepishly that he had not. I told him that it wasn’t very wise of him as an intellectual to condemn something he’d never read before. If we believe that the Bible is the living, sword-sharp, life-changing Book it claims to be, we should attempt to put people in contact with it as much as possible. V. agreed to read and to email me with his questions.

3. Only talk about what you want to talk about – Lately, I’ve been studying the conversations of Jesus. He had a bad habit of changing the subject. He just refused to talk about what He didn’t want to talk about. Matthew 22 records a barrage of attacks from those seeking to entangle Jesus in His words. Which is all the contentious want. It doesn’t matter how many good and right things you say, the contentious are just waiting for the ONE wrong thing you say. So they try to talk to Jesus about politics, He talks about our debt to God. They talk about made-up scenarios, He talked about their ignorance of the Scriptures. They talked about worthless debates about Scripture, He pointed out that the Scriptures made them all guilty. And He finishes them off by talking about the person of Christ. And after that they never asked Him questions again…

4. Keep it short. – While I spent half an hour talking to a contentious V., a hungry A. sat on the other side of the room unattended. The contentious will take all your time, leaving you none for those that are truly interested. Jesus sets this example for us in Matthew 22. Every exchange with the contentious was short and to the point. Jesus had plenty of people who would hear Him gladly; He didn’t need to waste more time with those that had no intention of listening.

It’s always a question of answering or answering not a fool according to his folly. I got a letter from V. on Sunday, though. More on that tomorrow…

2 Comments on “Dealing with the Contentious”

  1. wagardner July 11, 2007 at 10:24 am #

    Great article with really good insight. Keep up the good work but be careful. Check out the post I put on Vision News about what China is doing!

  2. Demetri August 1, 2007 at 2:57 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your insight. Indeed there are a lot of contentious ones out there but the way Christ handled his adversaries is amazing. Keep on running the race!

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