Father’s Day was a few days ago and I was fortunate to spend it with my father in-law, Lou. Stereotypical stigma aside, he’s a great guy and we have a great relationship. We have a lot of things in common that hold our relationship together: We’re both veterans; we both love Harley Davidsons; Lou has a beard and I flaunt the bushy bristles as well.
The most obvious commonality we share is his beautiful daughter. Long story short, I love that man and he loves me. As close as we are, however, our relationship isn’t enough to penetrate our spiritual differences. When discussing Christianity, the Bible, politics, and other controversial issues, relationship plus facts don’t matter. There’s one last element missing.
Facts Don’t Matter
Over the last 15 years, we’ve had dozens of opportunities to sit and chat about life’s controversial issues. While I was earning my theology degree, he would casually nod as I presented the evidences I discovered in support of biblical authority or inerrancy (also here, here, here, and here). I was very determined to get him to church. In all our talks, however, we never found common ground on the authority of Scripture.
I learned about Lou’s distrust of the Bible one time while watching an old Western TV show with him. During the show, I admired the old fashioned, Bible-based, family living. “I wish society still held biblical values the way they did in these shows”, I said. He disagreed,
“You can’t tell me HOW TO LIVE BASED ON SOMETHING a group of men composed.”
We talked for over an hour that day. Two men, in loving respect, sharing their interpretations of the facts. If relationship plus facts were the only thing that mattered, I believe, we would have shared the same view on the Bible. As a matter of fact, I believe we’d all come to the same conclusion about Jesus. But we don’t. Relationship plus facts is still missing one key element.
I suspect every Christian has a Lou in their life: a friend who refuses to try church, a family member who feels unwelcomed, a neighbor whose life-style doesn’t mesh with perceived Christian values, or a wayward son or daughter trying to figure out what it all means. Whatever the circumstance, family and friends are often the hardest to share Christ with.
We see this play out during Jesus’ ministry. In Matthew 13, Jesus is actively showing his power but the people around Him kept asking questions like:
“How did these miracles come to Him?”
“Isn’t he just a carpenter’s son?”
“Doesn’t his family live here with us?”
“Where does He get all these things?”
Jesus had relationship plus good evidences/facts but, in spite of that, people still rejected Him. You can hear Jesus’ frustration as he says, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his household” (v. 57).
The Missing Piece
The critical piece missing from situations I’ve just described here (witnessing to family and friends) and the case I made last time (witnessing to strangers) is relevance. The best apologists are the ones who can be relational, factual, and relevant.
See, facts don’t matter if people think you don’t care. That’s why developing relationship first is vital. However, facts also don’t matter if you can’t relate them to your friend or family member in a relevant way. The next time you share Christ with the people around you, don’t just throw out facts with no overarching goal in mind. Rather, use the facts to support your overarching goal: to make Christ clear to the people in your life.
What do you think? Should facts be a starting point or a supporting point? Leave your thoughts below and let’s talk about it.