“Don’t try to defeat your opposition, focus in winning the audience.”
- Scott McKnight
Been thinking about this a lot. McKnight doesn’t apply this solely to high profile adversaries. Rather he applies it to any thought, teaching, conviction ect that you see to be crucially important, regardless of what that might be.
In truth, we all have opposition. Opposition doesn’t mean adversary (in the Biblical sense there is only one adversary). It might be someone or something that we are in conflict with directly. It might simply be a voice or idea that preaches in conflict with that which you deem to be crucially important. It could be a friend, a family member, an acquaintance, a group member, a coworker.
In truth, if we cannot locate these points of opposition it likely means we simply haven’t given enough thought to what we are passionate about, to what drives us. We all have a stage. We all have influence whether we know it or not. That is what it means to exist in this world.
Sometimes there is a need for confrontation, to be sure. But I think what needs to be considered is when the opposition becomes our entire audience. Suddenly the credibility of our conviction rests solely on defeating our opposition. Which of course is likely to never happen.
When we are focused entirely on defeating our opposition two other things happen;
- We lose sight of the way we are shaped by such conversations and how we grow most often on the other side of them. Where we grow the least is when we are on the inside of them for too long and conversations turn into wars. Our convictions should be convictions, but that never means they must become static
- We miss how our own words and actions will be their own best witness not to our opposition but to our audience. If one convictions have merit and are indeed important, they will find their way in to the places where they are most apt to be recieved (and vice versa for ourselves)
This isn’t about a hard and fast rule of discourse of course. Rather it is about how we become free to debate, to speak, and to listen appropriately in a world where the temptation to make our opposition our audience looms large.