Contentions and Strivings

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“But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain” (Tit 3:9).
Among the things that I remember very well from my childhood are certain discussions and arguments over various points of doctrine. My dad worked in construction, and there were always one or two young Baptists who helped him. These young men took religion very seriously. After all, most of them were studying to be pastors in a local Bible college. My dad took his faith very seriously also. Small wonder that doctrine was very often discussed from different parts of the construction site. I don’t remember any details anymore—I was too young to understand the difference in Calvinistic and Arminian persuasion. What I do remember is that both parties always seemed to walk away unconvinced by the other.
I remember discussing different spiritual subjects at the supper table, listening in on the discussions among the grownups after the Sunday morning message, and of the heated arguments I participated in at Bible school. There were plenty of Bible doctrines, prophecies, and applications to discuss. Many controversial subjects bounced about among many different points of view.
Stimulating discussions can be very valuable. I realize now that many of my personal convictions were formed because of stimulating questions that were posed. Where else can we go but to the Bible? “I am going to find the answer!” But if we aren’t careful, we can get carried away and fall into the “contentions and strivings” that Titus talks about. Discussions of this nature are especially prone to occur when we confront someone that is erring. Here is where we need to be very careful.
Ephesians 4:11-15 gives us the perfect balance. The context of these verses is the teaching on how god places different members in the Body for mutual edification and ultimate glory to god. Verse thirteen states the goal: to “come in the unity of the faith” and “unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Verses fourteen and fifteen say, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”
Our goal is the fullness of Christ, but there are very real obstacles: false doctrines … wicked men out to deceive.… staying silent is not the answer! Where are the men who will stand up and destroy these deceptions with the sword of the spirit? Jude 3 says to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”
But did you notice in Ephesians 4:15 how we are to confront error? It is imperative that we are “speaking the truth in love.”
Truth is the tangible “this is right/that is wrong” concept. Truth is the rigid ruler that shows what “straight” is. Truth can hurt. Love, on the contrary, is an attitude that cushions the truth. What we sometimes forget is that others can perceive very well when love is present in us, or when it is absent.
So, we should consider this question: Are those earnest discussions always based on a love for our brother? I confess that not all of mine have been. At times it was the desire to “win the debate” that goaded me on.
Just as in disciplining a child, if correction is not done in the spirit of love, it is best not done. Our motivations need to be pure. The propulsion and spirit behind any discussion/argument should be love and a desire to grow in our understanding of scripture. If this is not the case, we are wasting precious time that needs to be spent on our knees.
Be courageous and stand for the truth! Don’t let heresy slink by unperceived and unchallenged! Stand for what’s right! But do it all in a spirit of love. Jealousy, pride, and contention will ruin the message we bear.
May the following ancient prayer be ours.
From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth,
From the laziness that is content with half-truth,
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
O God of Truth, deliver us.
~El Naranjo, Honduras
August 2012