Thursday, February 16, 2017
How to Win an Argument
Today’s Bible Reading: Leviticus 26-27; Acts 23
SCRIPTURE: Acts 23:1-2, 10, 12-15; 11
1 Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day." 2 At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. (Acts 23:1-2 NIV)
10 The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks. (Acts 23:10 NIV)
11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, "Take courage! As you have testified about me in
Jerusalem, so you must also testify
in ." (Acts
23:11 NIV) Rome
12 The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 More than forty men were involved in this plot. 14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, "We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here."
(Acts 23:12-15 NIV)
If someone says something you don’t like, hit ’em in the mouth (v. 2).
If you can’t win a debate, get violent (v. 10).
If they still confound you, kill them (vv. 12-15).
If you follow the example of the Jewish leaders in Acts 23, this would seem to be your guide for winning an argument. And, disturbingly, this is often the pattern many follow in our world today. If people don’t agree with your lifestyle choices, denigrate and ostracize them; destroy their livelihoods as best you can! Force them to agree with you! If you disagree with a court ruling, loot and destroy other people’s property. If anyone opposes you, assault them! If people don’t kowtow to your usurped authority and gleefully endorse your supposed religious beliefs, cut their heads off! –or you know what?! Cut their heads off anyway just for…!
If this is not how we are to behave, how are we supposed to defend ourselves from those who do act in these barbaric ways?
People, tribes and nations have historically acted in horrifyingly evil ways to take what they want or to force others to serve their interests. This is in stark contrast to the teachings of Jesus: Love your neighbor – love your enemies and pray for them – turn the other cheek – let the Lord avenge you…
Does this mean we are supposed to let people walk all over us? Are we not supposed to defend ourselves and stand up for righteousness?
In the midst of the harshness and brutality we find in Acts 23, note verse 11: When we stand up for God’s principles, even against overwhelming odds, Jesus stands with us! If it is our time to die, we get to go live with Him. But if he still has more for us to accomplish (like testifying in
whatever the Lord has called us to do), and we have to suffer a while longer,
He suffers alongside us and will sustain us through it all. What a heartening
promise to hold on to!
Lord, thank you for the assurance that when I stand for you, you stand with me. Grant me continual discernment from your Holy Spirit as to what to say and do. Grant me the courage then to say and do it. Help me remember that as I obediently follow you, it is you who wins the victory, not me.
Through Christ. Amen. -AP