by Lois Tverberg
“And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 2:24-25
It is easy when you are passionate about something, especially about God’s Word, to use strong, angry words to shake up your audience. When you see obvious errors online, your urge is to denounce the foolish author by pointing a prophetic finger of rebuke.
Certainly there’s plenty of arguing online now, religious and non-religious. You might be surprised at what we can learn from rabbinic teachers. They said: “A hot-tempered man cannot teach” (Pirke Avot 2:5). Aimed at those who teach the Scriptures, it was a warning that once a communicator loses his temper, he loses his ability to communicate. A related insight was, “Anyone who allows himself to become angry — if he is wise, he loses all his wisdom” (Talmud, Pesachim 66b).
Consider the damage that occurs when we communicate in anger. We leap to assumptions, assuming the worst about the people we are trying to reach. The street-corner preacher who scolds his audience about their wicked lifestyles has made an accusation that justifiably offends people. He’s presumed the worst and he loses his ability to reach his listeners.
Psychologists talk about the “Idiot Effect.” People can have a disagreement and openly discuss their differences, but at the point when one declares, “The reason you believe that is you’re an idiot!” the other will slam shut the doors of communication and never open them again. When you insult your listeners, you lose them.
This can be an issue for people when they discover their Jewish roots. They often grumble, “Why wasn’t I ever told this before?” or “Why has the church lost its Jewish heritage?” Some people angrily accuse the church of deliberately withholding information, rather than acting out of ignorance. The latter is much more likely, because the unfortunate split between Jews and Christians goes back to the first few centuries AD.
Whether you’re trying to share the Gospel with a non-believer or your knowledge about your Jewish roots with your pastor, you need to guard against an argumentative attitude or anger. Know that others are trying to discern the truth just like you are, but they’ve had different sources of information. To be convincing, you need to humbly bridge the gap between their perspective and yours.
Further reading: Be a Bridge, Not an Island at OurRabbiJesus.com.
Also the final chapter of Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus.