076. What does the Bible mean when it instructs Christians to “be open to reason”?

Message 76 of 152 in the series BuildingUp

17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

Expand Passage …
James 3:17, ESV

076. What does the Bible mean when it instructs Christians to “be open to reason”?

In culture, being open to reason means you are willing to listen and be persuaded by a fair argument. But Christians are supposed to hold steady and firm in our faith and not be moved from it by persuasive speech. So what is the Bible instructing us to do when it tells us to be reasonable people? What is the difference in being open to reason culturally vs biblically?

Audio Transcript

Hi everyone welcome into Episode Number 76 of the BuildingUp podcast. I’m David McConnell. I serve as the lead pastor at Agape Church in Pinson. Thank you guys for being with us this week. If you are a new listener of the podcast, maybe you stumbled across this or someone shared it with you, thank you for listening. And we would love to hear from you. So if you would reach out to us, you can use our email buildingup@agapepinson.com just let us know where you’re from, that you’re listening to the show. And if you have a question, topic about faith, something from the Bible passages of Scripture you’d like for us to cover? We would love to receive that from you and work that into a future episode. So thank you for listening this week.

We’re going to on today’s episode of the podcast attempt to answer this question. What does it mean in James chapter three, verse 17, that Christians should be open to reason. If being open to reason means you’re willing to listen and be persuaded by a fair argument? How do Christians do that when we are supposed to hold steady and firm in our faith? I think that is a great question.

I have read this passage of from James many times. And this is not the only place in the Bible that we’re told to be a person of reason. Philippians 4:5, for example, tells us that we should let our reasonableness be known to everyone. And indeed, when you think about being a reasonable person, you do think about being someone that you can get along with because they’ll listen and they can be persuaded if you make a good argument, perhaps in a dispute or just in a conversation. If you would refer to someone as being unreasonable, essentially, you’re saying well, they’re not willing to listen, they’re not willing to even consider my point of view, no matter how persuasive of an argument I make, they’re just an unreasonable person.

So what does it mean when the Bible tells us be a person of reason be open to reason, when we do know that as Christians we should not fall into or fall away from our faith by someone who is making a persuasive argument. As a matter of fact, Colossians chapter two tells us that that in Jesus Christ is all wisdom and knowledge. And so Paul goes on to say I don’t want you to be diluted or deceived by a plausible argument or by persuasive speech. So we don’t want to move from what the Bible teaches us by listening to someone who tries to persuade us to their point of view, we want to stand firm in the Bible. So what does it mean in James three and other places in the New Testament, when it calls us to be open to reason. The interesting thing about James 3:17 is that whole verse is talking about the character of wisdom. I think we’ve actually covered this on the podcast before.

James says the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, then gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. So not only are we to be people who are open to reason, but that’s actually the characteristic of someone who is full of the wisdom of God. That you are open to reason and indeed, if you look at the word as it is used in the original Greek, it can mean easily persuaded or easily won over.

So how does this work together? Well, I think what is inferred in this passage, when we are called to be open to reason, is that what should easily win us over what should … we should be easily persuaded by is not a logical, plausible argument from culture or human wisdom or the world, but rather we should be easily won over, easily persuaded by God’s word. Because James starts the verse off saying wisdom is first pure. So when you think about purity, holiness, righteousness, you think about the gift of God’s word that is given to us with all of its commands and exhortations and encouragement so that we can grow up and be built up in our faith and that the Holy Spirit, applying God’s Word to us, sanctifies us and helps us to grow in purity. So the type of argument that we should be persuaded by is a good argument from God’s word. I think that’s what he’s calling us to.

Why is that important? While the again, the opposite of that would be, if you are someone who’s unreasonable, it means that you’re stubborn, rather hard-hearted, that even if someone shows you from God’s word, what God’s word says and expects of you, that it’s hard to win you over, you’re hard to come around to that line of thinking, even if someone makes a really good argument from Scripture. And I think James is saying, Don’t be an unreasonable person who is hard to win over from God’s word, but rather be someone who will listen to God’s word when it is taught and explained when you’re exhorted or encouraged from it. When someone comes to you, with God’s word, be someone who is willing to be easily won over if you can see God’s word, if you can see the argument being made from his word.

So if someone comes to you and says, You know what, I know that you’re angry at this person because they hurt you. But I want to encourage you to forgive them. And my reasoning, for telling you to forgive them is these passages from scripture that say, we should forgive as we’ve been forgiven, that we should forgive our brother over and over if he sins, just as God forgives us. And so all of a sudden, as we’re listening to this reasonable argument from the Bible, about why we should forgive someone, we are easily one over, our hearts are ready to receive God’s word and to do what it says. And someone won’t have to beg us to do that If we can see that what they’re asking is from the Bible, I think that’s what it means to be a person who is open to reason, or Philippians 4, what it means to be a reasonable person to let your reasonableness be known to everyone — Easy for you to say, let your reasonableness be known to everyone. In other words, let everyone know — You know what, they, they’ll listen. If you can show them from God’s word, if you can show how to apply, you’re applying the principles of God, God’s Word to their situation. They’ll listen, they’re easily won over because they love God and they love his word.

Now, I’ll say a couple of things about this. I also think being a reasonable person in the scriptures means that you can — you also seek to make arguments with other people from God’s word. And of course, I don’t mean arguments as in divisive arguments, as in arguing in an angry way. But I mean, you if there’s someone in your life, who is a believer, or perhaps even someone who’s not a believer, and you are wanting to, like for a believer, you’re wanting to show them a certain path, you think they should go down. Or maybe you’re wanting them to make a correction in their life because they’re going down a path that you really believe is the wrong path for them. Or maybe even it is someone outside the church that you’re wanting to convince of the gospel and convinced of Jesus. I think being a person who is full of reason a reasonable person in the Bible means that you’re going to try and, and make your argument from Scripture. You’re not just going to rely on your own wisdom, but rather you’re going to go to the Bible, you’re going to try to pull out encouragements and exhortations and commands and principles of the Bible and apply it to this person’s situation. And you’re going to try to persuade them with God’s word, not just with your own thoughts.

And the other part of being a reasonable person, as you’re trying to make that argument, so to speak, involves your temperament, that you’re not just trying to make this argument with Scripture, but you’re also trying to make this argument with Scripture in a gentle or a mild or a meek way filled with humility. That word reasonableness in Philippians four is very closely related to being a person who is gentle, a person who is meek, as a matter of fact, that the exact same word that’s translated reasonableness in Philippians, four, is actually translated gentleness in 2 Corinthians 10:1 talking about Jesus.

So, being a person who is reasonable can also deal with temperament. It means that you’re a person who is meek, mild, and humble in your temperament. There was an old Jewish saying, talking about being a reasonable person. That said, a pious man is very hard to provoke. You keep a mild-mannered temperament. And I would in the podcast today, pointing towards 2 Timothy 2 that I think directly speaks into what we’re talking about here. 2 Timothy 2:24-25, Paul says this to his young protege, Timothy. he says:

24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,
Expand Passage …
2 Timothy 2:24-25, ESV

And so Paul gives this admonition to Timothy, that there are going to be times where you’re going to have to correct an opponent. And your hopes in correcting them is that God will grant them repentance, that will lead them to a knowledge of the truth. Likely, Paul here is thinking of someone outside the faith, who will listen to a rational argument from the scriptures, and by the power of God will be led to repentance. But I think it would be appropriate to also apply this inside the church that there might be times where you find yourself at odds with a brother or sister in Christ, you need to correct them because they’re in the wrong, so you’re going to reason with them from the Bible.

And Paul tells Timothy, this should be done with gentleness. Sometimes when you and I are needing to correct an opponent, either inside the faith or outside the faith, we have a tendency to want to do that with a lot of passion, perhaps sometimes anger, we want to use a strong tone, and come across rather forceful in our minds thinking that that passion, that force, that anger will convince them to listen to us. But I think the Bible is saying that a person who is reasonable is a person who is strong in God’s word. They love God’s word. They’re not moved by a rational argument from the culture. But rather, they are ready to quickly obey God’s word when it is taught appropriately, and its principles applied sincerely, and they’re willing to make their arguments with other people regarding the Christian life, using arguments from scripture or using principles from Scripture, and they’re going to do it with a gentle temperament. They’re going to do it with a meek, a mild, a humble temperament, correcting their opponents in that manner, trusting in the Lord and His Spirit, to move that person rather than trusting in their own flesh, their own tone, their own anger, to make their point.

So I think in a world today where we see so many divisively argumentative people, so many people who seem to be so irrational and unreasonable at times, making arguments whether in person, on social media, or what have you. It is so important for the Christian church, and the believers to be reasonable people, open to reason, listening to God’s word, making their arguments from God’s word, and doing so with a meek and mild, humble temperament, praying that God will bring their opponents to an understanding of the truth and repentance from sin.

And Christians, whether we’re speaking publicly through social media or just in one on one conversations, we should seek to be a wise individual who is open to reason and making our reasonableness our gentleness, our firmness in God’s word known to everyone. By God’s grace, let it be.

I hope this has been helpful to you today thinking through this passage of Scripture with me on the podcast I would love to hear from you and you share some passages perhaps you would like for us to talk about or a question of the faith you want us to cover. Until next time church. Thank you for being with us grace and peace to your family.

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