Lately I have been a witness, and sometimes participated in some debate about what we should believe and how we should act as a church. I find that when I try to convince someone else of what I see to be true, they usually do not change their position. Often the debate just makes both parties stronger in their convictions. So I wonder how useful it is to debate controversial topics.
The Lord said, “If anyone would drag you to the law, and take away your tunic, let them have your cloak also” (Matthew 5:40). The Writings explain, “Dragging to court and wishing to take away the tunic means arguing about truths and wishing to convince others that something is not true, tunic meaning truth from a heavenly origin; for [those who are heavenly] leave everyone with the truth they have and do not go on to reason with them.” (Secrets of Heaven 9942:11)
I sometimes leave debates feeling annoyed that someone else should be so blind to what I clearly see to be true. Yet that feeling of annoyance recedes when I read passages like New Jerusalem 9: The body of teaching focused on caring, which is a body of teaching about how to live our lives, was the primary focus in the ancient churches.... That body of teaching brought all the churches together and in this way made one church out of many. People at that time recognized as members of the church all those who lived a good and caring life. They called them family no matter how much they might differ with respect to the truths that we now call matters of faith. They taught each other in such matters, this being one of their acts of caring, and they felt no resentment if someone did not agree with them. They knew that we accept truth only to the extent that we are intent on doing what is good.
It helps me to remember that caring for another person means listening with compassion more than talking with an aim to convince them.