“For if you forgive others their trespasses,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you,
but if you do not forgive others their trespasses,
neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV)
The louder the talk, the less is heard. We might call this the Inverse Law of Communication. Our ability to really hear with understanding is about trust and clarity than about volume and vigor. Communication is an interpersonal art wherein we need to trust and be trustworthy. On that basis we can proceed to listen, ask questions, offer insights, persuade, and so on. Whenever our apologetics conversations descend into shouting matches, we distance people from God, becoming an obstacle to their ability to trust Jesus, and our “salt and light” becomes, for them, bitter and blinding.
Instead, we should try to speak with the same gracious, loving, and encouraging words with which we’d like for people to address us. Another way to put this, you should speak only with sweet words–in case you have to eat them later. Notice, this does not mean agreeing with error, or avoiding important critique. We should critique and correction bad ideas, but do so with caution and wisdom, and always blanketing our words with love.
Besides the inverse law there is a law of reciprocity, that sociologists have noted, where we people tend to reflect how we are treated. When we are treated kindly and respectfully, we are more likely to treat others that way. Apologists may recognize that reciprocity as a biblical concept: “forgive as the LORD forgave you,” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Colossians. 3:13; Mark 12:31). We should seek to understand as we would like to be understood, care for others as we would like people to care for us, and listen as we would like to be heard. In our apologetics conversations we do well to speak as we would like to be spoken to.