Contending for the Faith? Or Just Being Contentious?

(This blog is a slightly-edited version of a column I wrote for Area D Connections, July 1, 2013. Some recent experiences cause me to commend these comments to you once again.)

Nowhere is Scripture soft on false teaching. And nowhere is Scripture soft on our responsibility to hold to sound teaching. One only need review Romans 16:17, II Thessalonians 2:15 and I Timothy 4:16 (among a host of other passages) to be reminded of that fact.

At a time when we can avail ourselves of the “wisdom” concerning the issues that face us are being shared by electronic and other means, it is also appropriate to remind ourselves that Scripture also warns against being contentious, argumentative and putting the worst construction on others’ words and actions. Have you ever had a discussion about an important matter with someone who seemed determined to understand what you were saying or doing as incorrect? (Almost to the point where if you were to say, “The sky is blue,” they would respond, “No, it’s a shade periwinkle.”)

St. Paul wrote about this problem on numerous occasions:

  • But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. (Titus 3:9-10)
  • Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. (II Timothy 2:14)
  • 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. (II Timothy 2:23-26)
  • The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
  • You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. (I Corinthians 3:1-9)

Scripture is also clear about how we should speak to and about one another—in humility, considering others better than ourselves and honoring others above ourselves. Check out Philippians 2:3, Romans 12:10, Galatians 5:13, Ephesians 5:21, I Peter 5:5.

Consider:

  • In the writing and action of which groups or individuals do you find these Scriptural principles at work? Where are they lacking? When are they at work or lacking in my own life? What, if anything, does that say about the value of the opinions expressed? (See Matthew 7:15-20).
  • What would the LCMS be like if we held fast to these Biblical teachings?
  • What role can each of us play in holding ourselves and our brothers and sisters accountable to these words from God?

By: Rev. Jon Braunersreuther
Mission & Ministry Facilitator, Area D

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