When I went to Bible school and then to seminary, I noticed that a few students loved theological debates. This is a polite word; they were more like arguments. Sometimes I felt like joining in, particularly if the topic was one that I had strong opinions about and wanted my view to be known, or even be the ‘winner’ in the controversy.
This is not a great idea. Salvation is not about division but about becoming one in Christ. Jesus saved us so we could put aside our selfish interests and be united in our thinking and way of life. One New Testament passage puts it this way:
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:5–11)
Other verses add more instruction:
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, (1 Timothy 6:3–6)
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers . . . But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, (2 Timothy 2:14, 16)
The bottom line is plain; wanting to be right and arguing to prove it is ungodly, no matter how ‘sophisticated’ the debate might appear. Participants could think they are having a ‘friendly discussion’ yet the root of it is self-centered and anything that is not centered on Jesus Christ is sin.
For me, I am sometimes with a group of Christians and someone says something that is off base and does not jibe with Scripture. My first thought is to jump in and correct them. These verses challenge me to think twice about doing that. Is there a better way? Could I ask a question without having an argumentative attitude? Could I be more concerned that the person has a better understanding for their sake rather than proving myself right and that person in error?
Lord Jesus, I don’t want to be a divider rather than a unifier. Forgive me for the times I’ve wanted to make a point for the sake of ‘correct’ knowledge rather than to honor You and help others know You better. Grant me a deeper sensitivity to my own motivations and the ability to quickly deal with any godlessness or unhealthy desire to be right rather than righteous. Show me ways to transform those desires into good words and works that produce edification in the Body of Christ.
Today’s thankful list . . .
Growing unity and closeness in our prayer group.
My ninety-year-old friend bending over to put her hand on my foot and praying it would stop hurting.
Renewing my Thursday workout after two weeks missing it.
Praying to find a brown and a red cardigan and finding exactly that at Winners.
Hubby buys supper because I’m worn out.
Cozy mysteries that totally stump me!