Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.  And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,  and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.2 Timothy 2:23-26 (NIV)
One of my biggest challenges as a Christian has been avoiding the temptation to fight with other Christians. There are plenty of opportunities. In the beginning of ministry, people argued over whether tongues are for us today. Then maybe miracles have passed away. Then we had to debate whether the tithe was only under the Law. One of my favorites was, “Did Jesus die spiritually?” These have been followed, of course, by many contentious issues: woman preachers, the timing of Advent 2.0, salvation for homosexuals, drinking alcohol, infant baptism, divorce and remarriage, and a recent favorite: “Do Christians need to repent when they sin?” I could easily go on, but I have a real life to get back to. You get the drift.
Be advised, I love a good discussion. I don’t like vitriolic clashes. In my experience, the first is rare: Honest believers discussing the Scriptures in a mutual desire to arrive at the Truth. The second is much more common: Adversaries each demanding submission to their own opinion. The latter is often accompanied by name-calling and threats of condemnation to eternal punishment. The advent of social media has democratized the problem, making opinions instantly publishable, and blow-back immediate. In most issues I try to judge my own position by Scripture. If that is inconclusive, I look to see if I am equally despised by both sides of the argument. That always gives me solace.
The Apostle Paul repeatedly went back to the basics: “Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. (2 Timothy 2:8 NLT)” If we agree about that basic fact, and if we’ve both made some fumbling effort to acknowledge His Lordship, then I must assume we are brothers and sisters though we may disagree on other issues. Two things seem clear from Paul’s note to Timothy. First, strife is the enemy, not my brother or sister. Second, even if I am right, the conceit of winning the argument mustn’t overshadow the purpose of restoring my brother. Who’s right is often less important than who’s hateful.