“Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. Refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord’s servants must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, patient when wronged, dealing with those who are in opposition, with gentleness.” (II Timothy 2).
The tone of the dialogue going on in our world today is shrill and loud and in your face. So, when we read Paul’s admonition to Timothy, calling him to not quarrel and to deal with the opposition with gentleness, are tempted to say, “Really Paul?”
When Paul wrote to the Colossians, he said, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4).
Earlier this year, Christendom lost a giant of the faith, Ravi Zacharias, noted Christian apologist passed away following a short battle with cancer. As a Christian apologist, Ravi spent the better part of 50 years defending the faith, more often than not, in arenas that were hostile to the Christian message. Through it all, Ravi epitomized the verses above. Ravi treated those who were opposed to him and his message, with the utmost respect. No one ever left Ravi’s presence feeling put down or disrespected. He was careful to conduct himself with wisdom when dealing with unbelievers, his speech was grace-filled, his demeanor gentle.
All too often, we, as Christians, forfeit the right to be heard because we allow ourselves to be drawn down to the same level as the one to whom we are speaking or debating. We too can become argumentative and shrill. We must remember that we have not been called to prove ourselves right, we have been called to prove ourselves in love.
In regards to those who may oppose us, we must never let them sense that we see them as anything less than individuals who have been created in the imager of God. And because of that, we respect them as fellow human beings. And when we are drawn into debates about life and faith, we speak to them with respect and gentleness.
There have been times in my own life when I felt that I needed to win the argument at all cost, what the real cost turned out to be was a broken relationship. But when I have attempted to treat my opponent according to the admonitions of scripture, with gentleness and respect, though a single encounter may have come to an end, God has orchestrated another and another and another.
I wonder, in this day and age where everyone is screaming at the top of their lungs to be heard, if we might actually win the day by following the example of Christ, who when standing before His accusers was silent. Or, in our gentle speech find Proverbs 15:1 to be true, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
It’s worth a try, don’t you think?