How to argue with excellence

Paul areopagusWhether you’re a Christian or not, you can learn a lot from the apostle Paul.  One particular thing that has struck me as I read through the book of Acts is that Paul did not preach to people until they believed and were converted.

Instead, he engaged them.

He reasoned with them.

Then, he let the Spirit take the words he spoke and do the work in the listeners’ hearts and minds.

And when the people rejected the message he shared, he didn’t keep hammering at them, take offense, or belittle them.  No . . . he did his best to share truths with passion, but if they rejected those truths, he withdrew from the people and moved on to another audience.

In short, he trusted that God was in control and that it wasn’t up to him to convert the hearts and minds of the people before him.  All he could do was engage the people and share the message with passion, reason, persuasion, cultural sensitivity, and rational thought.

Take a look at Acts 18:4, 6 (ESV): “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. . . . And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent . . . .'”

Or Acts 19:8 (ESV) – “And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.”

Dont-end-up-arguing-with-the-marketsThese verses provide a great lesson for all of us as we debate sensitive issues with people who might not agree with or understand our position about our worldview or anything else.  Whether we are sharing our faith, our politics, or our stance on just about any sensitive issue with others, we should “reason with” others passionately, rationally, and with boldness.  But we shouldn’t demean, belittle, take offense, or offend those people in the process, whether they ultimately “convert” or not.

According to Paul’s example, it’s our job to share information with them as we “reason with” and attempt to persuade them.  If they don’t come to our position, we should end the debate in a healthy manner, trust and pray that the truth will ultimately prevail in their hearts and minds, and remove ourselves from the situation in a way that makes them consider the implications of their actions (e.g., “‘Have it your way, then, . . . You’ve made your bed; now lie in it.'” (Acts 18:6 (The Message))).

What do you think about Paul’s approach to discussing sensitive issues with others?


  • christina delfs

    Great post! I agree. I think that arguing only entrenches people more firmly in their position, and engages pride. When pride is involved, it feels like retreating to accept another’s position, whereas humble inquiry leads to further understanding and dialogue.

    • phildarke

      Thanks for sharing your great words so well and concisely. It is hard to have real conversations about things on which we disagree in our world full of anger and polarization.