“Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. The Lord’s servants must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone. They must be able to teach effectively and be patient with difficult people. They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will believe the truth.” (2 Timothy 2:23-25) NLT
Why do we argue when we’re having discussions about our faith? When we speak, what is the purpose of our speaking? Is it to hear ourselves talk, or is it to be heard and understood? For many of us, it’s simply to convince those around us of our brilliance. “What I'm saying is the truth and if they would just listen…” Whether we mean well or not, it's just not an effective way to make a difference in someone's life.
Not only do we get caught arguing with those outside of the church and treating them with disrespect, we often argue and fight with those in the church as well. Have you ever had an argument with another Christian about interpretation of scripture or just differences in your beliefs? What good is that exactly? Have you ever actually won an argument like that? If the other party walked off in a huff, that doesn’t count. You didn’t win anything; they just disengaged. If you walked away with a damaged relationship, you both lost.
And yet we know that this is not how we are supposed to treat each other. 1st John says that Christians should love one another. I don't think this is saying we should love those we agree with. Whether they believe everything we do or not, we are called to love them. And what does Paul say about love?
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. ” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5) NLT
Love does not demand its own way. Why can’t we just share our perspectives and not take it personally when they disagree? What is it in us that we must be right at all costs? When we talk about what we believe with other Christians, our goal can often be to convince them of our own rightness. And yet what are the odds that we have it all completely figured out anyway? Just within the Christian church, I read recently that there are over 30,000 different denominations, all of which have a unique perspective on truth. It’s not likely that any of us have everything figured out. We all have things to learn. So what is it when we walk into a conversation completely assured of our own rightness? Could it be.... (wait for it)….. pride? Arrogance? It’s one thing to know what you believe and to be able to articulate that effectively. It’s another to be so driven by your own perceived rightness that you must argue, convince, and beat the other person with a stick until they surrender.
The point of this blog is to foster communication. I write a lot of entries that you may or may not agree with, but my goal for this blog was not to convince you of anything. It was to give us things to think about and to start discussions. What if by being willing to discuss our differences we can all learn something new? If we're not talking, we're not learning. If we all walk into conversations hoping to learn something, I think we're on the right track.
God loves those around us just as much as he loves us. And I think he expects us to treat them with respect and love whether they agree with us or not. Respect means allowing the other person to agree or disagree--to make up their own mind. Do your best to rationally explain why you believe what you believe. If they choose to disagree, let them. That’s what love does. We know that because that’s what God does, and God is love. Jesus didn’t make you believe. He didn’t beat you over the head until you finally gave up. He knocked. For some of us, he knocked for a long time—because he loves you. Let's follow His example.