Do you know someone who likes to find fault over the smallest things?
It seems that there are always people who are willing to argue and fight over something, doesn’t it? In fact, The Doctor has known people who just never seemed to be happy unless they were fighting or arguing about something.
Is this a healthy thing or something to be avoided? Well to answer that question, let’s take a few minutes to look at the Apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy and see what all the arguing is about……
“Remind your people of these great facts, and command them in the name of the Lord not to argue over unimportant things. Such arguments are confusing and useless and even harmful… Steer clear of foolish discussions that lead people into the sin of anger with each other” (2 Timothy 2:14-16).
One of the things mentioned here are “foolish discussions that lead to anger.” This is what we might simply call “an argument” today. Of course, this is something that most of us are familiar with and if you’ve spent any time at all in a chat room or newsgroup, then you know that there are an awful lot of “foolish discussions leading to anger” going on. However, there’s a big difference between simply disagreeing with someone and the type of foolish discussion (or argument) that the Bible talks about here.
A discussion refers to an exchange of ideas between people and requires a two-way involvement. People who are involved in a discussion have a real desire to communicate and understand even if they have very different opinions.
However, an argument usually involves a one-way exchange only. You see, people who are involved in an argument aren’t always interested in exchanging ideas but in merely stating their own opinions. For example, two people in an argument may be thinking more about their own responses instead of really listening to what the other person is saying. Or perhaps they will look for some minor flaw in what the other person has said instead of focusing on the issues. This is how different opinions can grow to become the “foolish discussions that lead people into the sin of anger” that the Bible warns us about.
Good results rarely come from foolish, argumentative discussions. Perhaps this is why the Bible refers to them as confusing, useless and harmful. The Apostle Paul then went on to illustrate this point by using the example of some mutual acquaintances…
“Things will be said that will burn and hurt for a long time to come. Hymenaeus and Philetus, in their love of argument, are men like that. They have left the path of truth, preaching the lie that the resurrection of the dead has already occurred; and they have weakened the faith of some who believe them” (2 Timothy 2:17-18).
According to Paul, these two guys were actually hurting other people and leading them down a wrong path because they loved to get into arguments. You don’t need The Doctor to tell you that this is a bad example to follow.
So how do you know if you’re involved in an argument or discussion? Well here’s a good indicator- if the person that you are speaking with isn’t interested in hearing what you say but is only interested in expressing what they think, then there’s a good chance that you may be entering into the kind of foolish discussion that the Bible warns about. Of course, this whole idea isn’t original with Paul for Proverbs 18:2 warns us…
“A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions” (NIV).
Since there seems to be very little shortage of people who fit into this category, what’s the best way to handle these situations when they occur? Well, Paul gives Timothy (and us) some good advice for staying out of these foolish discussions…
“God’s people must not be quarrelsome; they must be gentle, patient teachers of those who are wrong. Be humble when you are trying to teach those who are mixed up concerning the truth. For if you talk meekly and courteously to them, they are more likely, with God’s help, to turn away from their wrong ideas and believe what is true” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
So rather than being argumentative and getting involved with foolish discussions that hurt and anger people, the Bible tells us to be gentle, patient and courteous with others. Don’t lose sight of the fact that a Christian is not out to win arguments with people but to help them establish a real relationship (or grow in their relationship) with Jesus.
If you communicate God’s Word to others in a firm but polite manner, they are more likely to really listen to what you have to say. Remember that you might be the greatest debater in the world but it is the Scriptures and God’s Holy Spirit that really gives people the wisdom to accept God’s offer of salvation through Jesus (see 2nd Timothy 3:15 and John 16:7-8).
If you follow this approach, you’ll be well on your way to fulfilling the words of 1 Peter 3:15-16…
“Quietly trust yourself to Christ your Lord, and if anybody asks why you believe as you do, be ready to tell him, and do it in a gentle and respectful way. Do what is right; then if men speak against you, calling you evil names, they will become ashamed of themselves for falsely accusing you when you have only done what is good.”