Many Christians today demonstrate the belief that it is up to themselves to “save” their non-Christian neighbors at the expense of loving and civil conversation.

While Christians verbally acknowledge their own fallibility and God’s saving grace, their behavior tends to reflect the opposite. Instead of sharing the gospel in a loving manner, they force their religion on others with dogmatic insistence on “saving” them.

Behavior like this is an unfortunate factor in the loss of civil conversation between those of differing opinions, to the point that people will either repeatedly turn their opinion into sermonic- or downright barbaric- arguments — or avoid discourse entirely.

Last year, my sister dual-enrolled in Valencia Community College in Orlando, Florida, to take child development classes.

When one of her professors learned my sister was homeschooled, the professor shared about being on the board of directors for an all-girls Muslim homeschool co-op. She asked my sister to meet with them and discuss their different religions over zoom, since both schools were still fully online in the wake of the pandemic.

Although she accepted the offer, my sister was terrified of the interaction. She had never been asked to engage in a conversation on differing religions, and she feared accidentally misspeaking or saying something “incorrect” about her faith. But mostly, she feared whether a conversation between a Christian and Muslims would be civil.

Fortunately, the call was a beautiful success. Everyone came openly and honestly with insatiable curiosity, unafraid to ask questions about each other’s faiths. They asked my sister why there were so many denominations of Christians and what made them each different. She asked them why they wore hijabs, and why some covered more of the face and some less.

What she took away from the conversation was that neither group tried to convert the other. There was no preaching, shaming or condemnation — merely curiosity and a willingness to share their faith with each other.

Through this conversation, my sister was reminded that it was not her job to save people. Only the Holy Spirit has that power. Her role was simply to answer the girls’ questions and share her faith — and learn about theirs in return.

After watching her engage in such a beautiful conversation, it broke my heart to realize that such an occurrence seems to be the anomaly buried beneath news articles, Instagram stories and Facebook posts with no other purpose than to take sides and convert unwilling listeners.

The beauty of genuine conversation has been lost in today’s society. But hope remains.

At Palm Beach Atlantic University, students in the Supper Honors Program have founded a Socratic Club with the specific purpose of fostering an inclusive and conversation-driven community.

Holding forums several times monthly, all students are invited to spend the evening in conversation, each night focusing on a different controversial, pressing, or “hot-button” topic.

Students from multiple sides of the issue are always present, and all are allowed to speak their minds. While everyone is allowed to express their opinion, the forums are strictly conversation-based — disrespectful words, actions and shutting down of other’s beliefs are strictly prohibited.

In this environment, students are able to engage in open-minded conversation, hearing differing opinions and coming to understand different points of view without the fear of someone trying to convert them to a specific mindset.

Libby Carroll, my fellow Ernest C. Hynds Jr. summer 2022 intern at Good Faith Media, has taken a similar course of action.

In her article “Recapturing the Lost Art of Civil Discourse,” she recalls how she and her Baylor classmates founded the group “Table Talk.” Their purpose, she declares, is explained in four parts:

  • Promote empathy through civil discourse on a myriad of controversial topics.
  • Educate Baylor students by exposing them to opposing viewpoints.
  • Respectfully engage in difficult conversations.
  • Uphold the freedom of speech and the exercise thereof by fostering civil discourse.

Is this the key we’ve been missing?

Perhaps this is the key the modern world is missing. Perhaps, if the world wants to share their beliefs with others, the key is not seeking to immediately convert. Maybe the key is engaging in conversation without expectations, strings attached or bickering, where others can learn from us — and we can learn from them.

God calls Christians to share the gospel — but if instead of sharing it with love, we stuff our views down other’s throats, then we are unknowingly and vainly usurping the power of salvation only found in Jesus Christ.

Our job is not to save others; it is to share God’s love. By engaging in conversation mirroring Jesus’ loving conversations with others, we can better fulfill our mission and live the way God intended us to live.