Oftentimes, when you disagree with someone’s views—particularly their religious and moral views—the person will take offense. When that happens, don’t get bothered or irritated. Just ask a question: “Why are you offended?” When they respond with some version of, “You think I’m wrong,” gently remind them this is precisely what they think of your view(s) as well. And I also quickly add that I am not in the least bit offended when they think my views are wrong. Why not? Because I want the truth. If my views about Christianity or some current social issue are wrong, I want to know.
In fact, a crucial indicator of my closest friends’ love for me is their willingness to speak the truth to me. Do you know who loves me most? My wife. And can you guess who offends me more than anyone else? That’s right, my wife. Sometimes, while driving on California’s frenzied freeways, my wife will lean over and gently correct me. “Honey, you really shouldn’t yell lethal threats at other drivers.” It’s a risky move because my first response is often offense. “That guy was tailgating me!” But as she continues to gently speak truth to me and I slowly remember my goal to pursue truth in all areas of life, I open up to the truth of her words and the error of my ways. It often takes awhile but I (usually) come to see that my wife’s truth-telling is evidence of her deep love for me.
In the same way, sharing the truth with our non-Christian friends is evidence of our love for them. Assure your friends you’re not trying to unnecessarily offend them. Make it clear the pursuit of truth, in love, is your motivation. Defuse their defensiveness by suggesting you could possibly be wrong in your views too.[i] If you can help your friends see that love and truth are not mutually exclusive, you can ensure that a potentially offensive discussion is a productive one.
Once they’re convinced you care, bring truth front and center. Gently ask, “Would you want to know if you were wrong? Would you want to know if your beliefs were false?” If they answer yes, they’re probably ready to hear more of the truth.
[i] Some Christians get nervous at the suggestion we could be wrong. But there is no need for worry. First, to suggest we could possibly be wrong is not the same thing as suggesting we are probably wrong. Logically speaking, it’s possible Christianity is false. However, we have good reason to think it’s true and therefore have nothing to fear. Second, it models for the non-Christian the kind of open-mindedness we desire from them. When people sense you are open and fair-minded, they are more likely to engage in conversation.