If you enter a conversation with a “win-lose” mentality, you’ve lost already.
In preparing our book Compassion without Compromise, we collected questions from lots of people — too many to cover in a short article. Some of them arise from people’s own experiences. Some are hypothetical “What if?” queries that set up scenarios any of us would find daunting. Like you, we are learning the complex balancing act of reaching out in love, speaking truth with compassion, opening the doors for the gospel and trying to be a good friend or family member.
We hope these practical responses will be helpful in your context. Even more—we pray that you will be able to grow in discernment, and exercise biblical wisdom in real life situations. As you seek to exercise compassion without compromise, we encourage you to keep two key principles in mind: a) mission, and b) true love.
How can I have a meaningful conversation about this issue without getting into an argument? How can I turn an argument into a meaningful conversation?
– Submitted by “Brian,” a 30-something youth pastor, husband and father of three.
Paul was no stranger to difficult conversations. Sometimes, they ended with incredible conversions. Sometimes, they ended with him being stoned! His words to the Colossian church are relevant:
“[Pray] also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you oughtto answer each person.” (Colossians 4:2-6)
Here are five simple applications we can draw from this passage:
1. HAVE THE RIGHT MINDSET
If you enter a conversation with a “win- lose” mentality, you’ve lost already. Our goal is not to win a debate, but “open a door.” Creative questions are one of the best ways to open doors.“What do you believe? What’s led you to care so much about this issue?”
2. SPEAK YOUR CONVICTIONS CLEARLY
We’re convinced God has revealed truth in His Word. In some ways, that removes the pressure—this isn’t just our private hobbyhorse. It’s what the Bible, God’s Word, teaches.
3. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR CONVERSATIONAL CONTEXT
Paul said we should “walk in wisdom.” Wisdom is applied righteousness— knowing the right steps in the real world.
- Don’t “yell in the library”: Are you at work, in a Bible study, on the street? These factors will determine just how the conversation proceeds.
- Discern whom are you speaking to: Is he gay? Does she have an ideological axe to grind? Has he just learned his daughter is a lesbian?
- Control the thermostat: What is their emotional temperature (1-calm; 10-screaming mad)? If it starts to get hot, acknowledge it and take a step back. What is your emotional temperature? Wherever you are, keep cool. Otherwise, you give someone the right to write you off. Your conversation should be “gracious, seasoned with salt.”
4. DON’T EXPECT AGREEMENT
EVERY TIME: In this passage, Paul basically asks God for the chance to say again, with clarity, what landed him in the slammer in the first place! This isn’t a popularity contest.
5. PRAY. PRAY. PRAY:
Enough said. Just pray. A lot.
This article was adapted from a section of Compassion Without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing The Truth (Bethany House Publishing, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2014), and is used with permission.
For more resources, visit www.bakerpublishinggroup.com.