"Teach the truth so that your teaching can't be criticized. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us." ~ Titus 2:8, New Living Translation (NLT)
It feels like hardly a day goes by where I don't see arguments or hostilities about something, whether it's abortion, gay marriage, some form of violence, fornication, masturbation, pornography, or any number of other subjects. All of those topics have their place in civilized, compassionate discussion, but the right way of addressing any of these goes beyond arguments--no matter how logical, well-formed, permissive, or restrictive--and extends into the attitudes and empathy of how we speak and how we listen. I don't always see people (whether inside or outside the church) get along even when discussing important issues, which only seems to make things worse.
We need to work together to find practical and God-honoring solutions that may well be more complex than simply saying, "This is wrong; do this instead." Sometimes the non-ideal state of society highlights a deeper need that could be addressed in more or better ways than it currently is. But enough about that. All too often I see people retreat into bitterness or profanity in the course of arguing, which only gives the other side an excuse to condemn them or their behavior instead of actually debating their points.
"If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." ~ James 1:26-27, NLT
"Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world." ~ 1 Peter 2:12, NLT
I cannot claim to be perfect in this area. Often I used to get involved in debates that, regardless of their good intentions, were not always the most productive use of my time. Some of the topics I and others used to debate were abortion and fornication. We each had our deep-seated convictions, often more varied than "A" or "B," and to this day I still remember one girl whose views and lifestyle were totally different from mine. Yet she still thought highly of me, for which I truly give thanks to her and to God.
She didn't do it because of the strength of any of my arguments. She believed, without my having to ask her if she did, that I respected her and other women, and that
was what she noticed. And I deeply appreciate that and still do. What do you think? Do other people tend to take a person and his ideas more seriously when he overpowers them intellectually, or when he shows them that he cares about them beyond just whether they're living life the same way he does, no matter who is right or wrong?
"Again I say, don't get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people's hearts, and they will learn the truth." ~ 2 Timothy 2:23-25, NLT
And I would ask you not to look at this and say, "If only those hypocritical Christians would learn from this and do this ..." or, "If only those unbelieving atheists would learn from this and do that ..." when ultimately I think the only thing any of us can really control is our own actions and responses. "What can I
do to learn and grow in this area?" I am not assuming any of you have a definite problem here. But I know that I always have room to improve, even without needlessly insulting myself or putting myself down in the name of false humility that in my experience never motivates someone toward holiness.
This does not mean that accusations will never come. As this blog article
points out, even Jesus Christ Himself was not immune to receiving accusations of wrongdoing. Jesus was a controversial and divisive figure even in His own time, and that has not changed today. Nor does this mean in every situation that we absolutely must change our behavior so that others will not be offended. Sometimes that can be useful [Romans 14], and sometimes accusations are themselves based in impure motives [Matthew 27:18].
While the New Living Translation and many other translations of the Bible mention
the motivation in that verse as envy
, I find it telling how the New International Version renders it: self-interest.
Whether Christian or not, we should always keep the interests and well-being of others close to our hearts [Romans 15:1-2, 1 Corinthians 10:24, Philippians 2:4], so that even if we do need to hold others accountable for their wrongdoings, this will always be done from a heart of love
for them as well as for anyone else who might be involved.
Sometimes slanderous accusations can sting for weeks or months or years, not despite their lack of evidence but because of it. But I am reminded of what the Lord declared through the prophet Isaiah:
"'All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." ~ Isaiah 41:11-13, New International Version
"Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it." ~ Psalm 34:14, NLT
So where does that leave us? Let us always choose to de-escalate emotional tension and conflict whenever we can, extending from our outward actions past our spoken words all the way down into our hearts themselves [Matthew 15:19], and to ensure in our hearts as much as possible that everything we do will facilitate understanding and not confusion or recklessness. Basically I think one of the ways for us to live above reproach and to love one another is to "go and make disciples of all the nations" as Christ told us [Matthew 28:19, NLT], because it's one thing to argue about God's mission, and it's another entirely to be an active part of it.
"But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don't lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him." ~ Colossians 3:8-10, NLT
"Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone." ~ Romans 12:18, NLT
"Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive [Greek
: seasoned with salt; King James Version used in link; compare Matthew 5:13] so that you will have the right response for everyone." ~ Colossians 4:5-6, NLT
"Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man." ~ Proverbs 3:3-4, NIV
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible
, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Font used: Cambria
This work is not intended for commercial use and may not be used for commercial purposes. The stamp is not a direct quotation, however, and I would love to see people positively sharing this message of peace on their profiles. Feel free to ask permission for other uses!