The Delicate Act of Talking about Our Faith

As we move into the NCAA basketball tournament, many people—even people who have little or no interest in basketball—are filling out brackets and entering office pools. Because the games begin in the early afternoon, it’s estimated that more work time is lost on Thursday and Friday of this week than at any other time of the year. You can watch games online and even if you can’t do that, people are checking scores, updating their bracket and spending lots of time discussing the event.

Having grown up in Indiana, I am a huge IU basketball fan. After going through some lean years related to a coach’s indiscretions, the Hoosiers are now back in the tournament. Much of the credit goes to their head coach, Tom Crean. Coach Crean is an energetic presence on the sideline. He loves his players. He was in tears after a game last week because one of the players went down with a torn ACL. When he was asked about the player’s injury, he responded that he was praying for the young man and asked others to pray as well. Considering all of the attention that Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin have received about their Christian faith, it made me curious about Coach Crean’s religious affiliation.

I discovered that the coach’s Twitter tweets are often about religion and his faith. Two particular tweets—sent out back to back—seemed to catch the eye of some bloggers:

I am so thankful that I was raised in a home where we went to Church 2 or 3 times a week.

I am also glad so many of our players are regular Church goers even when away from home. We have a team full of guys raised the right ways.

Now as an IU fan, I’m thrilled that faith is important to the coach and many of the players. Many bloggers agreed. Some, however, took offense at the innuendo that going to church equals being raised the right way. Those who didn’t like this connect asked if because they weren’t raised going to church that this implied that they weren’t raised the right way. They affirmed the loving home in which they were raised even though God and church were absent from it.

As I pondered this conversation, I started thinking about the delicate balance of talking about our faith without unnecessarily putting people on the defensive. On one hand, we can’t help it. Any mention of Jesus, God, or our faith is going to offend people. On the other hand, sometimes what we say offends people not because they are opposed to faith or God but because the way we talk about our faith comes off as arrogant or at least insensitive. This is my concern.

I know Christians who believe that we have the right and responsibility to talk about our faith anywhere at any time and in any way we want to. If people don’t like it, too bad. I also know Christians who, because they don’t want to offend anyone, never say anything about their faith. If what we say might irritate any one, then we shouldn’t say it.

Somewhere in all of this we have to find a balance. We are called by Christ to share the gospel with as many people as possible (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). But we are also warned to be sensitive to the most effective means of sharing: And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth… (2 Timothy 2:24-25).

The key to maintaining this delicate balance is always speaking the truth and speaking of the Truth in the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The point of our witness is not to say what we want to say but to present Christ in the way that is most likely for others to hear.