I am a constant listener to Ravi's Podcasts and he always says "Intent is always prior to content." What does that mean?
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Ravi Zacharias is a renown apologist for the Christian faith. I, too, enjoy listening to him. His account of his interview with the Grand Mufti of the Islam faith, which he describes as perhaps the most tension-fraught interview he has ever conducted, is unforgettable.
Since Mr. Zacharias is an astute apologist, I am guessing that his phrase "Intent is always prior to content" is a good "mantra" for anyone aspiring to be an apologist and a witness for Christ. Before one opens his or her mouth in defense of the faith, a good question to ask oneself is,
"Now, why am I about to defend the faith? Is my intent to make myself look good by out-arguing the person with whom I am engaged in conversation, or is my intent first, to build a bridge of communication with my interlocutor, and second, to bear witness to the truth in Christ Jesus, but in a spirit of love, gentleness, and godly fear?"
If your intent is the former, then you should probably not open your mouth; you'll do more harm than good. If on the other hand you are genuinely interested in hearing the person out, responding appropriately in a Spirit-led way, and all the while being in an attitude of prayer and dependence on God, then you are probably in a position to accomplish something for God.
Remember, our task is not to make ourselves look good, but to make our Savior look good. Moreover, achieving eloquence and thus acquitting ourselves in a prideful way must never be the goal; pointing to Jesus is.
"If I can speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am simply a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" (Paul, 1 Corinthians 13).