As a Christian apologist (a.k.a. Christian Case Maker), I get the chance to travel and meet other Christian Case Making leaders around the country. Many of my fellow Case Makers are Chapter Directors for Ratio Christi (Latin for ‘The Reason of Christ’), a global movement equipping university students and faculty to give historical, philosophical, and scientific reasons for following Jesus Christ. I’ve visited a number of Ratio Christi (RC) chapters, where I’ve been asked to defend the reliability of the New Testament Gospels in large, open-campus events. Ratio Christi is a relatively new movement on university and college campuses across the nation, but it has grown exponentially. RC directors are an essential factor in this growth. Last Monday, I spoke at the Rutgers Chapter of Ratio Christi. It’s a passionate, engaged group of smart, winsome students, led by a fantastic Director, Julie Miller. Over the past two weeks, as I’ve interacted with the group on Skype and met everyone personally, an important characteristic of Case Making became obvious. Julie is a competent, well-trained Case Maker (she earned an MA in Christian Apologetics at Biola University, graduating with highest honors), but beyond that, she possesses an important attribute: Julie Miller is a mama bear. More than simply a good Case Maker, Julie is a naturally gifted Care Taker.
Most of us who are interested in Christian Case Making are familiar with the key passage animating our desire to defend the truth: 1Peter 3:15. But we typically focus on the words in this verse describing the importance of knowledge and study, while reading past the rest of the verse in its context:
Good Case Makers, according to this verse, must be knowledgeable enough to defend what they believe, and prepared to do this whenever the need arises. But while it’s easy to draw out this one aspect of Christian Case Making (1Peter 3:15), it also easy to read past the other verses describing the reaction we may receive from the world around us:
Peter tells us to expect some tough times as Christians. People are going to revile and try to harm us. We will likely suffer for the sake of righteousness and experience fear. In an environment like this, people are going to get hurt, and someone needs to be there to take care of those who are injured along the way. Like any good mom or dad, Ratio Christi directors need good caretaking skills. Good Case Makers need clear heads and compassionate hearts.
Case Making leaders, like Julie, must employ a maternal (or paternal) approach as they guide and train Christian students in the university setting. As a father, I know I’ve got to teach my kids, but before any of that, I’ve got to remember the importance of loving my kids. In fact, my training is dependent on my loving. The students at Ratio Christi Rutgers obviously know they are loved. They’ve been well-trained, but they’ve also been well-nurtured. Their questions have been addressed, but their wounds have also been mended. They’ve been taught in advance, and loved afterward.
This attribute of Care Taking is part of what it means to make a defense with gentleness and reverence, just as Peter described. It’s not just the key to Christian leadership at Ratio Christi, it’s also the key to effective Case Making elsewhere. You’ve seldom influenced anyone who you didn’t love first. You may not have been in a long term relationship with the person you influenced, but you were able to model the nature of Christ well enough (and long enough) earn the right to speak into that person’s life. When we demonstrate that we care, people allow us the opportunity to make a case. So, continue to study and prepare yourself. Know what you believe and why you believe it. But remember to submit the knowledge of your head to the compassion of your heart. Good Case Makers are good Care Takers.
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