In his second letter to Timothy, Paul took time to instruct the younger man on how to become a worker “approved by God.” Specifically, he gave instructions on how to deal with those who disagreed with the Christian message. Here, in part, were the instructions Paul left him:
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 2:23-26, ESV).
Never before has the marketplace of ideas been so large and open to all. The advent of the internet and social media have created enormous platforms for Christians to engage others in discussions about God’s Word, the plan of salvation, and a multitude of other topics.
Unfortunately, more often than not, what I see when Christians disagree with others is not kindness, patience, and gentle correction. Instead, the more common response seems to be anger, impatience, and degrading name-calling. I fear that too often we confuse our “freedom of speech” with the right to say whatever we want, to whomever we want, in whatever way we want. In short, we quickly sink to the level of the lowest common denominator in the discussion – sometimes we become the lowest denominator.
Friends, if we want to be workers approved by God, we need to follow Paul’s advice too. We need to recognize which controversies will lead to quarrels and simply avoid them. For any discussion we choose to enter, we must remember that we represent Christ – therefore, we should display kindness, patience, wise teaching, and gentle correction. If we respond correctly, we leave God room to enter and lead others to a knowledge of the truth.
Kind, patient, gentle. Do these describe you as you hold discussions with others? –Dave
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