Humility in Debate

Philippians 2:5-11

5 Make your own the mind of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped. 7 But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, 8 he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. 9 And for this God raised him high, and gave him the name which is above all other names; 10 so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus11 and that every tongue should acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Humility in Debate

Many of us are taught that religion and politics are the two topics one shouldn’t raise in polite company. I suppose that is how the company intends to remain polite.

Thankfully, Socrates, Benjamin Franklin, Martin Luther King, St. John the Baptist and the Son of God ignored the wisdom of this principle.

Truly, there are no two more important topics to be discussed; and no two topics more debate-worthy.

But for many, these topics cause passions to flare. For spectators, this situation can become alienating and disconcerting. Better to not bring it up, they will begin to think.

I can appreciate such feelings of alienation. This is not to say I think controversial topics should be brushed under the carpet, simply to avoid offending others.

The problem becomes balancing the urgency of a advocating an important issue or value (abortion, same-sex marriage, immigration), against the harm that can be caused by your presentation of the issue.

I think the solution is simple. We should enter a disagreement with humility and treat our “opponents” with the utmost respect. Often times, your opponent will be none other than your own friend or kin.

By approaching conversations about politics or religion with humility, rather than avoiding them altogether, you will find opportunities to persuade and change hearts. This was the approach of Christ Himself: He did not avoid religion and politics; rather, He endeared nonbelievers his humility, and changed their hearts in the process.

In any case, I’m not going to bring up the Election, even though I am very excited. But I will encourage every Christian to participate (engage) in this great civic liberty. Maybe we don’t need to strike up a conversation about abortion with the cashier at Taco Bell, or pester our sister’s husband (whom we know disagrees with us on everything) about Prop 8 on Thanksgiving.

But, at the very least, be confident about your Christian values. Don’t hide them. Don’t be afraid to cite Jesus when asked why you believe something. Be humble and graceful, but don’t always worry about offending people. Christ didn’t.

Now go vote!





2 Responses to “Humility in Debate”

  1. November 1, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Love it-great post, Robert! I am writing my master’s thesis on the importance of what you discussed as it relates to budget politics at the state level between the Executive and Legislative branches in California. My state’s political leaders have ignored civility in favor of treating the other party as “the evil, demon-possessed opponent.” As a result, the state’s credit rating is downgraded, it can’t borrow money, and it’s citizens get IOUs rather than money for their tax returns.
    There is definitely a place for respecting our ideological counterparts without forsaking the truth-it is difficult, but we need to walk that line because the topics you mentioned need to be talked about if we are to relate the Truth.

  2. 2 Jer
    November 3, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts Robert!

    Interestingly, my honors negotiation class has dedicated a great deal of time to learning about ‘mindfulness,’ and how to keep from being ‘positional’ in negotiation. Of course, positional thinking is almost automatic! This is because conflict is inherently emotional, and emotions are polarizing. I think your admonition to embrace humility is key to maintaining open lines of communication and winning people to Christ!

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