The most effective heretics are Bible-quoting heretics.
I had a visit from some JWs today. I’m afraid I can’t resist entering into discussion with them and ended up spending 45 minutes discussing the nature of God’s grace that raises dead people to life (Ephesians 2).
Over the years I have noticed two biggies about JWs. The first is that they do not read the Bible (or even their Bible) very closely. They often quote verses, and usually they verbally misquote texts, and almost always take them out of context anyway. My strategy is therefore to get my Bible out and do a little Bible study with them: what’s the book about? who wrote it? who is it written to? then read a few verses before and after to get the context, then almost word for word get them to tell me what the words mean. It is only then I can try to get them to see that they are misreading, or reading into, the text. I hope it is helpful, but I have to say that their hearts are often blinded by the JW teaching and they cannot see the plain meaning of the text and how their own hearts are operating.
The other biggie is that they talk a lot. There are a couple of reasons for this, I think. One is that if you say you are a Christian, they will immediately start talking about the ills of the church (of England?), how it is full of hypocrites who do not live according to the commands of God, and criticise various dodgy practices. Most of that I agree with but I usually let them blow off their steam and then say, “Yup, I agree with most of that.” The other reason for talking a lot, is usually a relief mechanism from the detailed study I am forcing them to engage in in the first biggie above. To relieve the pressure they will start ranging over lots of other verses, most of them irrelevant to the discussion in hand. My job is to doggedly bring them back to the text we were looking at. But they are a bit like birds trying to escape danger.
There are a couple of takeaways for Christians that come out of these experiences.
One is to love the text of scripture. It is God’s word and if we love God, we will love his word. That means paying attention to it, by reading it, thinking about it, talking to other Christians about it, listening to good preachers explaining and applying it. In other words, learn how gracious God is, how deep and rich the gospel message is and how it is all over the pages of scripture. Then you are equipped to show people in love the wonders of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.
The other takeaway, is to resist the temptation in evangelism to fill the air with the noise of your voice. Some Christians can be as bad as JWs! Much better to spend a significant chunk of time understanding who you are talking to – who they are, why they think the way they do. Then you are in a much better position to start where they are and lead them to Jesus Christ. It is damaging, and maybe offensive, to assume you know how a person thinks. Winsomeness means listening as well as speaking (though there must be some speaking!)
“…in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,…” – 1 Peter 3:15