My favorite teacher during my school days was a college history professor named Dr. Holmes, a man possessed of such brilliant lecturing skills that I hated to see class end each day. Interestingly, however, Dr. Holmes was also a man with whom I had major disagreements philosophically and politically, which often led to lively discussion/debate in class. We respected and liked each other nevertheless, and I still smile when I think of Dr. Holmes and I teasing each other after class.
"See ya later, Dr. Holmes. I'm going to listen to the Paul Harvey news."
"That's not news, Glen!"
"Well, it's more news than the stuff you listen to!"
I learned a valuable lesson from my days with Dr. Holmes, namely, that it is possible to disagree agreeably. No less than the Apostle Paul, a man of the most intense conviction, also held this view.
"The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves" (II Timothy 2:24-25).
Winning arguments for the sake of winning arguments has no place in the hearts and communication of those seeking to lead people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly we seek to confidently assert our beliefs, avoiding compromise at all costs. Nevertheless, we also realize that faithfully presenting our position must be accompanied by an attitude and demeanor that reflects the disposition of the Lord Jesus. It is more than possible to lose the person even as we win the debate if we do so in a manner that contradicts the very truth we seek to espouse. Fleshly and devilish self-centeredness can be found at the heart of such carnality, and we may actually do more harm than good.
True confidence of conviction expresses itself most often in calmness and awareness that how we debate is no less important than what we debate. "Gentle unto all men" even as we uncompromisingly proclaim God's truth to all men - this is the heart and attitude the Christian servant seeks to express as we reveal Christ in both doctrine and demeanor.
"Thy gentleness hath made me great."