Men avoid religious debate (another word for “discussion”) with as much vigor as they avoid the flu and telemarketers. Yet, the Bible’s greatest men debated religion at every turn.
Moses upbraided and corrected Israel for idol worship (Ex. 32). Elijah confronted and opposed false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:17-40). The apostles Peter and John preached to the religious leaders of their day—the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees—pointing out their sins (Acts 3-4). The apostle Paul debated Jews (Acts 9:29; 17:16-17) and Greek philosophers (Acts 17:18-34). He even disputed with Christians teaching error (Gal. 2:1-5, cf. Acts 15:1-2).
These men tried to correct those in religious error, because religious error is as sinful as moral error.
“But Jesus was never so callous as to tell a believer in God he was wrong,” you may say. The evidence proves otherwise.
The Lord was in constant conflict with those in religious error, namely the Jews. On one occasion He pointed out the error of the Sadducees who didn’t believe in a bodily resurrection. Very pointedly Jesus told them, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29).
Did Jesus say the Sadducees were wrong in their belief about the resurrection? Yes. Their error wasn’t in not knowing the words of their law, rather it was in not understanding what those words taught. This resulted in their being in religious error. Jesus taught that a religious believer in God can be in religious error, a fact many people today don’t understand.
How would you react if someone pointed out that your religious beliefs were incorrect? Would you get angry and accuse the person challenging your beliefs of being hateful, or would you just walk away? After all, if you’re a good person and you call yourself a Christian, it doesn’t really matter what you believe, right? It mattered to Jesus, the apostles, Moses and many others. They risked their lives teaching God’s Truth and pointing out the error in which many religious people found themselves.
So the next time someone wants to discuss your religious beliefs with you, instead of getting angry or simply ignoring him, remember three things:
- This person is only following the example of some of the godliest men of the Bible;
- Your religious beliefs may be incorrect, placing your soul in danger (Matt. 7:21-23); and…
- If so, this person may be doing you an eternal favor (Jas. 5:20).