TRIAL MONTH: CROSS EXAMINATION
By: Gabriela Yareliz
Cross examination, or “cross” as it is often referred to, is known as the part of the trial where an attorney questions a witness that is not his/her witness, otherwise referred to as a “hostile witness”. And to be honest, sometimes, the attorney is more hostile than the witness. The attorney’s goal in cross is to destroy the witnesses’ credibility. When it comes to credibility– it’s not just about sharing truth but sharing it effectively. Today, we are talking about discussing polarizing topics and difficult conversations. We all have them. These conversations are so important, and must be approached with wisdom.
When one is preparing for any kind of witness testimony on the stand, but especially in cross, it is extremely important to know your listener. Whether it’s a jury or the judge, the attorney is trying to read them. In my own experience, when one spends a lot of time in court, one gets to know the judge personalities and the things they tend to fixate on. All of this is part of the strategy.
When we witness, it’s important for us to know our audience. We will know some more than others, but with wisdom and compassion, your vulnerability can be effective.
Important to note is that testimony is done strategically by the attorney, but the story being told isn’t about the attorney. There is a bigger picture one is trying to paint and clarify for the listener. Similarly, when we discuss polarizing topics, it should never be about us. We need to keep in mind the bigger picture: biblical truth and the love of Jesus, which is what we want to give to our listener.
How do we approach difficult topics? Sometimes they come up organically, and sometimes people target us with questions.
We have discussed the need to seek truth daily in Scripture and through communion with God. This is a way in which we can have opinions based on truth and biblically sound doctrine, rather than just based on our own thinking, culture or politics.
As we discuss important topics, and seek to educate ourselves and others on important topics, we should always keep in mind that the person asking or listening is a person whom Jesus loves. Someone who has their own hurt, baggage, trauma and worldview.
Sometimes, we are quicker to align ourselves with a celebrity, person, or political party rather than aligning ourselves first with Jesus, Himself.
Christians would be known for more life-changing stances on things if we humanized issues more and really cared to sit with those who are hurting and/or seeking.
I would suggest that we approach issues in the following manner:
- What does God say about this in Scripture?
- How can I reveal truth with compassion to the person in front of me, in a way that draws them closer to a relationship with Jesus.
Erwin McManus said, “What God says is what affords us the most freedom and restores His image in us. It is our job to invite people into a saving relationship with Him.”
There is no substitute for knowing truth, but love is what makes us use truth in the correct way.
Every attorney knows that if he/she riles the hostile witness on the stand, he/she can undermine the witness’ credibility. A person with an attitude loses control and becomes emotional.
Don’t be a hostile witness. Protect your credibility because that credibility is truth and is rooted in love.
There are a lot of polarizing issues in the church and in the world, today. Check out some of these resources, if interested. Always be a seeker.
EVERYBODY, ALWAYS: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff: I adore Goff’s books and his warmth and love for Jesus, which drips off of every page.
MCMANUS on Hillsong: They have discussed topics like immigration, death and abortion. Excellent dialogues.
RZIM: Apologetics resources can be found here, in article and podcast form.
IS GOD ANTI-GAY? (Questions Christians Ask) By Sam Allberry: A biblical view on sexuality and marriage. Extremely insightful and coming from a knowledgeable source.
JUST MERCY: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson: A closer look at race and criminal justice.
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