John 14:6 – Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (NIV)
Acts 18:4 – Every Sabbath [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. (NIV)
Recently, while dining out with my daughter, we overheard the people seated at the table across from us discussing the topic of religion. All seemed to agree that one religion is as good as the other and that certain behaviours that are contrary to biblical teaching are acceptable. Regrettably, I listened to their conversation and wondered how I might have reacted in their company.
This experience brought to mind one of the principles of Christian apologetics referred to as the "Columbo Tactic" by apologist Greg Koukl. This technique is named after the television personality, Columbo, who is famously known for saying, "Do you mind if I ask you a question?" Columbo's style demonstrates that the key to success is in choosing the right questions. Pertaining to Christianity, these questions are meant to break down any intellectual barriers standing in the way of biblical truth, since they require the unbeliever to back up their claims with sound reasoning.
Therefore, applying the Columbo principle to my imaginary involvement with the individuals sitting near my table, I might have asked something like this: "What do you mean by that? Have you studied comparative religions? How did you come to that conclusion?" Based on their answers, I then must be prepared to share God's truth. Yet, it is never the goal of the apologist to force the Lord on anyone, but rather to encourage them to consider Jesus, offering the Christian faith as a belief backed up by strong evidence.
In agreement with the beliefs of the people I overheard in the restaurant, the popular teaching among many religions is that there are different ways to reach God — but biblical Christianity is not one of them. So, how can we be prepared to defend the gospel? I think that it is best to start by observing Paul's interaction with unbelievers throughout the book of Acts. I doubt that the arguments he heard were any different from the ones we hear today. Then, like Lieutenant Columbo, we can take control of the discussion by respectfully asking a few important questions. Are you up for that challenge?
Let us become better ambassadors for Christ, ready in advance to effectively communicate God's Word to an unbelieving world.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, in obedience to Your Word, enable us to be wise in the way we act toward those of different beliefs. Teach us to make the most of every opportunity. May our conversations be full of grace, seasoned with salt, and may we always be ready to give a reason for the blessed hope that is in us. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the way, the truth, and the life, we pray. Amen.
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