The next dimension of effective witness is a confrontational intellect. Now please notice that I did not say “argumentative.” Again, I am using the term “confrontational” to emphasize a stark sense of contrast – being profoundly distinct – not to imply aggression. So in this case, our intellect, our way of processing reality and reasoning, should be markedly different from the prevailing culture. But even more specifically, we should know HOW our thinking differs and we should be prepared to articulate this in a coherent, gracious way.
The first way we prepare ourselves intellectually is to discern how mainstream, popular culture sees the world. To ascertain this before we interact with our unbelieving friends and family on an intellectual level is invaluable because it is a real manifestation of our respect and love for them. Think about it: for an unbeliever to encounter a follower of Jesus Christ who actually has a sense of how they think and isn’t put-off by that is a probably major shift from both their perceptions and past experiences with Christians. Be willing to walk a mile in their moccasins, right? Get a handle on concepts like relativism and postmodernism. While many, if not most people would never describe themselves in those terms, those terms probably accurately describe them.
The second way we prepare is to develop the ability to perceive and communicate the heart of the problem, especially when people come to us with questions. Christians are not here to help the world (although the world should become a better place because we’re here!). We exist to tell the world that Jesus has saved the world from its slavery to sin and all the brokenness and ruin that slavery entails. Sure there are always practical insights that can be applied to our lives that will improve them, but to what kind of a life are we applying these insights? I submit that any attempt to skirt the sin/need-for-rescue issue with an unbeliever is ultimately doing them a disservice because it’s avoiding the real problem. Any improvement will have a “sand foundation.” Let us perceive life’s struggles and pain as the fruit of sin with Jesus being the one and only solution.
But there is one other issue that should be raised in this discussion of intellect and that is imagination. Sure, there are many more dimensions of discussion on intellect we could pursue, specifically in the area of apologetics (the study of how we can defend or argue for the Christian faith), but there are many authors who have addressed this with more logic and skill than I could muster, starting with C.S. Lewis’ masterpiece, “Mere Christianity.” Study them. But in highlighting imagination, I want to consider how we can be creative and dynamic in how we proclaim the Gospel. Before I say more I should offer a word of caution: this is not an encouragement to be gimmicky or have a shtick. Use analogies. Word pictures. Stories from your own life. Headlines from the news. Scenes from movies. The possibilities are vast! Whether in art or journalism, our culture is regularly putting the pain and frustration of the sin curse on display. Don’t lambast it – embrace it for what it is and describe how the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ effectively deals with it. In order for this use of imagination to occur, we must consume things like art and journalism intentionally, seeing them through the filter of Scripture with a heart of love. This will provoke thoughts in our minds that will eventually come out in conversations.
We must identify the futile mindset of our culture and graciously offer an alternative to those who have an ear to hear. To the extent that we are able, we need to consider the thoughts that have been raising themselves up against the knowledge of Christ and be prepared to creatively counter them with true and rational words…because we love God with our all our mind and we love our neighbor as ourselves!