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. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. “
— 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NLT)
In our Tuesday Bible Study recently, we spent some time looking at a couple of the cults that we’ve encountered in our area from time to time. And while we discussed specifics about what they believed, and how it differed from True Christianity, another topic also arose: That of how do we treat people who are not like us… whether they are in a group we consider so different from our beliefs that we call them a cult, or perhaps just from another one of the Christian churches, or even an entirely different religion, or race, or political persuasion, or even sexual orientation… whatever.
As I’ve taught this class on and off in six churches over 19 years I’ve been a pastor, I’ve been inundated with different folks’ beliefs on how to best ‘get rid of’ a cult member who’s coming to your door: hiding in the closet till they go away, putting all the shades down, yelling at them to go away, standing there and belittling them with the fallacy in their belief, or deliberately showing up dressed in nothing more than a single undergarment.
I’ve also been at annual conference 18 of those 19 years (and to one of our General Conferences) when every time something legislative was brought up trying to sway the United Methodist Church to change our condemnation of homosexual behavior. (By the way, it is ALWAYS brought up and it has ALWAYS been voted down.)
My concern as a pastor relates to the passage up above. The way we talk to each other in the church, and to those outside of the church, is commanded that we never stoop down and quarrel in anger and bicker and fight like the non-believers do in the public forum. As Christians, regardless of how wrong we are convinced someone else is, we do not have the right to parley with our tongues like weapons and using our words like ammunition. Read that passage again: catch the words “gently” and “kind” and “patient” and the command to “not quarrel.” And the language used is not like these are suggestions. The emphasis is laid out in the very first phrase: “must not.”
And to top it all off, Jesus Himself is quoted as saying: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” — John 13:35 (NRSV)
If we are to be his disciples, then the world around us will see it and hear it in through the love we show them. Because that’s what a Christian is like… at least according to Jesus. If we are just making a point and zeroing in for the kill by scoring a win over another person’s point, or argument, r discussion point, then we are JUST AS WRONG AS they are… in fact, we are MORE wrong, because we are Christians and are given CLEAR instructions in these two passages (as well as others) as to what the expectation is for a Christian.
In closing this month, my prayer is the prayer embedded in Psalm 19:
“May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be pleasing to you, O Lord…” — Psalm 19:14 (NLT)