“How can you really believe that Jesus is God?”
“I used to go to church, but not anymore.”
“Yeah, my parents believed that stuff.”
Answering personal objections can be much more involved than answering intellectual objections. A person who has a personal objection likely has put it in place as some type of defense mechanism to protect them self from harm, real or imagined. To further cloud the water, a person might hold on to a personal objection in the form of an intellectual objection. How is one to know the difference?
Thankfully, according to James 1:5, God freely gives wisdom to those who ask for it. So, we can be assured that God will give us the wisdom to recognize personal objections and the best course of action to counter them.
The first thing that is important to keep in mind when encountering a personal objection is that successfully countering the objection may not in fact even lead to a full Gospel presentation. Rather, success may be merely identifying what is causing the objection in the first place.
For example, a conversation with a classmate reveals that he hates Christians and thinks they are deceived and foolish. In this case, would success be convincing him that Christians are not foolish? Not likely. Better yet, success might be finding out why he thinks Christians are foolish. Perhaps he grew up in a cult-like environment, and saw people swindled and deceived all the time. If that forms the basis of his impression, suddenly we can better empathize with his objection, and more effectively target our interaction with him to overcome this objection.
Here are some strategies to overcome personal objections:
1. Take the long view. If someone has an objection based on something that happened to him or her a long time ago, it could take a long time to overcome those feelings of hurt, etc. Of course God can and does work in an instant, but we should be patient and wait on the Lord and not get frustrated if nothing happens right away. It can take time to for someone to change his or her core assumptions.
2. Ask questions. When faced with personal objections, it is appropriate to ask personal questions, within reason of course. Ask about their religious background, and how that has shaped them today. Ask them what they have seen that causes them to think the way they do. People are generally surprised when someone asks them why they think the things they do. It shows that we care about them, rather than just trying to convince them to think like us. There are numerous questions that can be asked and scenarios that may be encountered. The principle here is that good questions help us to know more about the person and their assumptions, allowing us to better target their objection.
3. Empathize. Empathy is the ability to feel what other people feel. When we empathize, it shows the love of Christ to others. A person who has a deeply held objection usually has been hurt or mislead by someone they trust. This makes it hard for them to trust other people, and God. By showing sorrow for what happened, or feeling what they feel, we show people that we really do care. Empathy is a powerful vehicle to establish trust with others. Do not be afraid to apologize for wrongs done to that person by someone else.
4. Remember – don’t argue. Arguing likely caused the objection in the person in the first place. More is less in this situation. We are not to convince, we are to give an answer. We need to trust that God will work in that person’s heart through our answer.
5. Know when to quit. We see this principle in the way Jesus dealt with the Pharisees. Their hearts were so hardened with jealousy and hatred that they were no longer capable of seeing the truth. As a result, Jesus turned to the poor and lowly to receive the kingdom. Likewise, when someone’s heart is hard, no amount of empathy or logic can penetrate. It is a good idea at this point to disengage the conversation and pray in earnest for that person.
6. Pray. Prayer accomplishes much to soften the heart and weaken the objection. It is a powerful weapon that we should never hesitate to use.
In summary, personal objections usually run deeper than do intellectual objections. But if we take to heart Peter’s words of using gentleness and respect, we can do a lot to counter those objections by modeling the character of Christ.
Test Questions to Consider:
Is there anyone in your family who has a deeply held personal objection to the Gospel? Why do they have that objection? How can you begin to counter it?
Write one page telling the story of how you or someone close to you overcame a deeply held personal objection to come to a relationship with Jesus.
Trinity School of Apologetics and Theology