I don’t know when it started exactly, but in my mind I keep hearing the words “love the right answer,” and I would like to share some thoughts with you about this. I think this is related to some online discussions that I have had and observed others participate in. I have been in talks with atheists and skeptics, and I remember that we should “always [be] ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15, NASB). When Peter tells the readers to use “gentleness and reverence,” it means love the right answer.
I have seen plenty of exchanges online between believers and unbelievers, and sometimes I have to wonder if believers have forgotten that we need to include gentleness and reverence in our responses. If we start trading insult for insult, and evil for evil, how can we sow the good seed of the word of God? James tells us “And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (3:18, NASB), and the Lord tells us “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matt 5: 9, NASB). Being quarrelsome is like Peter taking his eyes of the Lord as he walked on the water. It doesn’t work. Love the right answer, and do your sowing in peace.
Loving the right answer must include the right response, even if it is something you would rather not do. I will take a page from my own life to show what I mean. When you have a family member that you love and want to spend time with, but their response is indifference and apathy, it can be a source of frustration and contention. It is natural that when you love someone, you want to be loved back, and if this doesn’t happen over a long period of time, it can be a terrible experience. I thought about this in connection to loving the right answer, and this came to mind: “if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5: 46-48, NASB). The right answer is to continue to love, even when that love is not returned. There will always be whispers from the tempter to give up and leave for greener pastures, but it is better to love the right answer, do the right thing, and stay true. You love the right answer when you do the right thing.
When we love the right answer, we are fair to everyone, even those who are in opposition. It can be easy to be unfair, when emotions are hot and strong, or when a group of people are despised by society (as tax collectors in Jesus’ day). The Bible tells us about the importance of fairness when we read “A just balance and scales belong to the LORD; all the weights of the bag are His concern” (Proverbs 16:11, NASB). In apologetics, it means we must evaluate the arguments of those in opposition and represent them fairly. If we misrepresent their arguments or what they say, we are not being fair to them. In that case our balance and scales have become unfair, and that ought not to be. That is the wrong answer, and we should not love it. They may not agree with us, but they should have confidence that we will be fair. There is another application I would like to mention for the readers who may be teachers.
I taught first year composition at my university for a season, and whenever it came time to grade assignments, the thought of a just balance and scales would be on my mind. There were some papers in which I really had to struggle for what would be a fair grade, but I wanted each paper to be the product of a just balance and scales, so I would pause, pray, and ask for help in doing the right thing. This is what got me through my grading process, and I hope it will be a benefit to others as well. You love the right answer by being fair.
I would like to mention one last thing in closing to the Christian apologist. Make sure that your motives for defending the faith are right. Are you there to win an argument, or are you wanting to win a heart? If you want to win arguments, you may win the battle, but you will lose the war. People don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care. You love the right answer when you love those you are reasoning with.
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor 13: 4-8, NASB).
Love the right answer and share it.
Lord, I realize I cannot do the work of changing hearts. You, and You alone have the power to give them ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to understand. Help me to decrease so that You may do Your work through me, and the people see You, not me. Have mercy on the people and forgive them. Open their minds to understand the Gospel so they may recover themselves from the snares of the enemy. I pray that they will be fruitful boughs in Your Kingdom, and that they will be worthy to walk with You in robes of white, and to be with You always. Amen.
Adar 4, 5778