Being Smart

I was watching a newscast the other day on PBS about a new law recently in D.C. requiring that large companies that operate in the district pay a “living minimum wage” of $12.50 an hour. Wal-Mart has threatened to shelve plans to expand into the area if this law is passed. Two financial experts with opposing views presented the pros and cons of this law, disagreeing strongly with each other. It wasn't their points I noticed; it was how they conducted themselves.

Both of the experts were respectful, they never interrupted one another or attacked each other even though they plainly disagreed and clearly thought the other guy was completely wrong. There were no personal attacks or charges how “you people” always are. I didn't just think they were both smart guys; I also thought they were nice guys. How different is that from the sideshow of CNN, Fox News or MSNBC where people scream at each other, wave their arms and constantly interrupt as they talk over and past each other. It was just refreshing to listen to an exchange of ideas without all the theatrics.

In Acts 17, Paul is invited to speak before the philosophers and at the Aeropagus in Athens. They were people who had nothing to do but sit around and talk “about and listening to the latest ideas” (Acts 17:21). Paul had to have been a little annoyed at this point; he had just been run out of Thessalonica and Berea, and all the shrines to pagan idols around him were bothering him. So how does Paul conduct himself as he speaks to these pagan professors? Well, Paul compliments them on their displays of piety and faith (17:22), points to one of their shrines (17:23), and even quotes from their poets (17:28). His presentation of God and faith is respectful, He seems to go out of his way to find both common ground and something to commend about their beliefs. He doesn’t compromise anything about the message of the gospel, but he wants to find the best way to communicate. He refuses to be argumentative or combative. He isn’t about winning arguments; he is trying to win hearts and souls.

Maybe there is a reminder here when we get into discussions of issues, politics or even our faith. Volume and theatrics may make a good show, but they don’t convince anyone who doesn’t already agree with you anyway. Maybe in our discussions, we need not to not try so hard to be smart... and try harder to be nice.