Taking the high road


It is critical, especially in light of the ongoing culture wars (and they are ongoing; and appear to be worsening) how we behave as Christians in the world and in the marketplace of ideas, and right now, it’s my observation that we have a tendency to behave very badly. Actually, so is everybody, but “everyone’s doing it” has never been an excuse for bad behavior. People are becoming more and more combative and I have noticed how Christians can hit just as hard as anyone else, and often below the belt.

Demonizing, belittling and making your opponent look stupid are clearly the ways the game is being played right now, but Christians, for the sake of the gospel and grace turned outward, must resist the temptation to join in. We need to be known as being gracious, and if we disagree with others, we need to do so with visible respect for the other person or group, and for what they believe. Certainly we have the right to create an argument and to be persuasive, but without knocking down those who think and feel differently. Be winsome in your persuasion, not like the others who try to incite emotional reactions to prove a point. If your argument is a good one, it will stand up intellectually on its own, not as superior, but as making sense, so those who disagree can think about the merit of your point of view without having to fend off an emotional barrage of personal attacks at the same time. No one is giving any thought to any point of view other than their own when our points are personally-directed flaming arrows.

If you have the truth on your side, it’s not necessary to add a couple of swings at the opposition. Sometimes it’s in the form of a joke, so we think we can get away with it, but jokes at anyone’s expense are not funny to the person or group being ridiculed. Sarcasm will not help our cause. It will only cement those who already agree, and drive the others further away.

We are all guilty of this from time to time. Our argument seems so obvious that we think it would take a fool to not see it, but that’s only our opinion. We have no idea how the person who disagrees with us has come to their current conclusions about things. We are not standing in their shoes. (Indeed, we dislike them so much that we wouldn’t be caught dead with their stinky shoes on our feet!) We fail to realize that their argument makes perfect sense to them. If we want to try to get them to think differently, we need to build a case for our point of view that understands how they got to theirs. That’s a lot different than taking pot shots over the wall that separates us. When you listen to the other side, you usually find out at least two things: 1) they aren’t as dumb as you thought, and 2) you might even see where you can challenge their argument in a fair and respectful exchange.

My deepest concern about all of this is that we have lost sight of our goal. Our goal as Christians in the world is not to win a culture war, but to spread the news about the gospel of welcome and grace turned outward. Think about it: you can even win the culture war and lose the battle for the souls of men and women in the process, and what good will that have done?

All of this is called taking the high road, and hardly anyone is doing it right now, Christians included. I’ve been following a highly respected Christian publication that recently insinuated that Democrats were zombies, and anyone who thinks banning plastic straws will make an impact on the environment should have their head examined. That argument could have been made without tearing down the other guy. That wasn’t necessary. You can make your point without making the other person look stupid. That would have been taking the high road.

With just about everyone taking the low road right now, we might even get someone to stop and pay attention to what we have to say by taking the high road, and wouldn’t that be unique?

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12 Responses to Taking the high road

  1. Excellent way to start the day! Thank you John for always giving us different ways to think about things and to pinpoint some of our daily tactics that trip us up in coming alongside of a friend or stranger for that matter. It also can lead us down a path of false praise to ourselves in thinking, “Wow, I am so much more in tune than that other person over there”.

  2. David says:

    Great point on the high road. People in general, and tragically Christians in particular, have lost sight of Christ-likeness and the concept of bearing witness to Christ. I’ve been away from teaching Sunday School for three years or so now, but kicked around the concept of facilitating what I think is a much needed adult SS class: “Give me Jesus” where we’d do nothing but look at the gospels, studying who Jesus is and how that should impact our life and witness as followers of him.

    • David says:

      1 In the morning, when I rise,
      in the morning, when I rise,
      in the morning, when I rise,
      give me Jesus.
      Give me Jesus.
      give me Jesus,
      you may have all this world,
      give me Jesus.

  3. “You should carefully study the Art of Reasoning, as it is what most people are very deficient in, and I know few things more disagreeable than to argue, or even converse with [someone] who has no idea of inductive and deductive philosophy.”
    – William John Wills (1834–1861 British surveyor, surgeon, explorer of Australia).

  4. Mark says:

    Great Catch! Loved this: “You can make your point without making the other person look stupid.” As I once read: a man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.

  5. Alma Siemens says:

    Point well taken! Lord, please help Your people repent and take that “high road.”

  6. Gary says:

    This is probably out of context. But I like to read Jesus’ prayer “I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes. Matt 11:25. I certainly have no appetite to try and topple anyone’s opinion, by putting them down, I would feel stupid even going there. There is so much less accountability these days on how we interact or reason with one to another. Especially if we as Christians entangle ourselves with the Indecency that prevails in worldly controversies. What a nightmare to be involved in.

  7. Robert F Smith says:

    “Our shared values define us more than our differences. And acknowledging those shared values can see us through our challenges today if we have the wisdom to trust in them again.” ~ Senator John McCain

    Senator McCain may not have been the perfect politician but he was certainly a true patriot and American hero in every sense. He was a man who tried to take the high road as often and as best he could when both a brutalized Prisoner of War and in the brutal battlefields of Congress.
    Rest in well-deserved Peace, sir.

    “”Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth…
    put out my hand and touched the face of God.”
    – John Gillespie McGee (from “High Flight”)

  8. Tim Logan says:

    I have found that the best way to relate to people is to try to find something in common with them that you can agree with it opens the door to share the love of Jesus with them

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