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Are We Too Defensive?

The Bible says we are to defend the truth. “Always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (I Peter 3:15). It isn’t enough to tell people what we believe. We must be prepared to show them why, and we must use the Bible to prove what we say.

The Jews constantly challenged Jesus. When they did, the Lord most often went straight to the Scriptures (Matt. 12:3-7; 15:1-9; 19:3-12; 22:23-46). Jesus never thought it was unloving to contend for the truth.

Christ didn’t always reply with a direct answer, however. Sometimes He answered a question with a question:

Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?"

But Jesus answered and said to them, "I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things:

The baptism of John--where was it from? From heaven or from men?" And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?'

But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet."

So they answered Jesus and said, "We do not know." And He said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things” (Matthew 21:23-27).

Jesus was not afraid or evasive. He could have answered their question, but He didn’t. Also, this wasn’t the only time He turned the tables on the Jews (Matt. 12:9-12, 27; John 7:21-24).

People today ask us a lot of questions. Sometimes they ask to learn. Sometimes they ask to provoke. It is never wrong to give them Bible reasons for what you believe, but it may be wiser to use Jesus’ approach in some situations.

When people put you on the defensive, they don’t have to explain why they believe what they believe. They can just keep you busy with more questions.

Sometimes our friends start a religious discussion with this question: “Why don’t you tell sinners to accept Jesus as their Savior and pray the sinner’s prayer?” To make them think you can respond, “Why do you tell sinners to do this? Where is this teaching in the Bible? Where is an example of this in the New Testament?” When you show them their belief is not in the Bible, then you can show them what the Bible does say if they are honest and willing to listen.

Others ask, “Why don’t you fellowship all the other churches?” A good way to respond is to ask, “Why don’t you?” All churches draw a line somewhere. None of them accepts the beliefs and practices of every church. Baptists accuse churches of Christ for being narrow-minded, but they don’t allow Pentecostal preachers to come to their assemblies and pretend to speak in tongues. Community churches wonder why we don’t have a band, but they won’t permit a Catholic priest to praise the Pope and sprinkle holy water in one of their services. Don’t all these people believe in Jesus?

Many ask, “Why don’t you believe in miracles today?” It is great to go to I Corinthians 13:8-13. It may challenge them to think more deeply by responding, “Why do you believe they do happen? Have you witnessed someone raising the dead? Have you seen the blind receive sight or a cripple from birth walk?” They’re demanding proof that these things don’t happen today; the burden of proof is actually on them.

Responding with a question is not a diversion. It is not a smart aleck reply. It is a challenge to be consistent and fair. If the Lord Himself refused to be put on the defensive in every case, then it is right for us to do the same today.


West End church of Christ Bulletin article for May 21, 2023


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