When was the last time you had an argument about church, religion, or some other topic in the realm of theological things and actually "won?" And when I say "won," I mean actually saw someone start to follow Jesus or at least get a little closer to him? My guess is never. If you're anything like me, the only experience you've had with apologetical arguments is frustration for both parties and more questions left to be asked than questions that actually got answered.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love a good debate, but they're not always the most helpful conversations. And as the wise Preacher of Ecclesiastes says, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under the sun." And it's very important to know when the right time for a debate is and isn't.
Jesus Front And Center
The reason most of us don't like to do evangelism (tell people the good news about Jesus) is because when we go to talk about him, we don't actually talk about him. What I mean is that we easily and quickly get side-tracked by questions and arguments that don't matter and we wind up losing sight of what really does matter. We quickly become intimidated by the answers we don't have and we become overwhelmed by our inability to "win the argument." It's not a joyful experience and therefore, we're unlikely to do it again.
When the Apostle Paul preached the gospel (evangelism), he was sure to keep that which was of first importance in its rightful place. First! Paul's primary concern in evangelism was simply to tell people about the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you...For I have delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve...Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. - 1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-8
For Paul, because he had seen and experienced the love of Jesus, Jesus was the only person he wanted to talk about. And he was a master at keeping Jesus front and center. He didn't get side-tracked with topics such as God's triune nature, the hypostatic union, or where Christ went after he died. It was simply the person and work of Jesus that he was concerned about.
Now, don't get me wrong, those other things are extremely important and I hope you someday have the opportunity to have discussions (and debates) about them. But they are rarely arguments that allow people to see and know the full beauty of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior.
Insist On These Things
At the end of Paul's life, he wrote a letter to a man named Titus. As he closed that letter Paul wrote:
The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are profitable for people. - Titus 3:8
What are "these things?" Well, a few verses earlier Paul tells us what they are. To sum it up, Paul told Titus (and us) to insist on telling people that God saved us as a complete act of grace, mercy and kindness. There is nothing in and of ourselves to deserve salvation. But God, through his Holy Spirit, has regenerated our hearts, and through the work of Jesus, has reconciled us back to himself. We are justified, not because of our works, but because of Christ's finished work.
Grace. Mercy. Justification. Reconciliation. Jesus. These are the important things. These are the things we need to insist on because they are the things that keep Jesus front and center. Contrast this to the things we should avoid.
But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. - Titus 1:9
Paul goes on to say that these things actually cause division, and that if a person causes divisions in the church over foolish arguments that don't highlight Jesus, that person is to be lovingly warned about the damage he is causing. And if he doesn't respond in repentance he is to be removed so that his division making will be stopped.
Jesus Is Enough
What are you insisting on when you tell people about Jesus? What do you really want them to see? That your church is the best? That your arguments are well thought out? That they are wrong?
As we approach Easter, we need to be reminded that Jesus is enough. He is sufficient in and of himself and he doesn't need us to argue the finer and more controversial points of theology. He does, however, want us to keep him front and center.
He lived perfectly. Died our death. Was buried. And rose three days later. He is Alive! This is enough.