Just War Theory and Evangelism Part 4: Proportionate Response
I recently spoke with someone who held different beliefs than my own. At one point, my familiarity with proportionate response kept me from doing thoughtless damage.
Today’s post is part 4 in a 5-part series relating components of just war theory to the field of evangelism. We’ll continue to juxtapose physical and spiritual warfare by comparing the rightness of waging war with the rightness of sharing your faith. Here is a review of the concepts covered in this series (click on each concept to review the previous posts):
- Jus ad Bellum: the rightness in going to war.
- Jus in Bello: the rightness in the conduct of war.
- Escalation of Force: the rules of war.
- Proportionate Response: the sensibility of war.
- Jus post Bellum: the rightness after the war (also known as “just peace”).
This post covers proportionate response. Proportionate response prevents warfighters from retaliating with overwhelming and unethical force. This concept applies to evangelism as well. Here are some keys to sharing your faith and avoiding overkill:
- Decide to share your faith. Sometimes the hardest part is taking this first step.
- Listen and ask questions. There’s no better way to know the heart of the person you are sharing with.
- Let them set the tone and stay at their level. If you want to share the truth in love, it will help if you keep it calm. Don’t be the one to spool up, and be careful how forcefully you counter aggressive maneuvering.
I was talking with someone about the authority of the Bible. The conversation turned to the authors of the Bible and the reliability of their testimony. We were going back and forth and having a productive discussion. Then he said something that piqued my interest.
“Did you know the authors of the four Gospels did not even know Jesus?” he asked.
I thought that was a rather odd question. Matthew and John were two of Jesus’ disciples.
“I don’t think that’s right . . .” I replied.
“No, it’s true. They wrote their books years later. They weren’t even eyewitnesses to Jesus’ acts,” he assured me. I thought for a moment, trying to figure out where to go from there.
“Why do believe that?” I asked him. There was a very brief pause, and then a response.
“Because my father told me.”
I stopped. His father had recently passed away. There was no way to respectfully continue after his emotional revelation. The only proportionate response was a moment of silence.
We stood for a moment looking down. I thought about the powerful bond between father and son. The exchange was over. You must always consider proportionate response when going back and forth on an issue.
But sometimes the best response is no response at all.
How do you respond when you’re attacked?
About Jason B. Ladd
Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.