Note from the Editor: Today’s post comes from guest contributor John Turner, a United Methodist worship leader and spouse of Managing Editor Elizabeth Glass Turner.
Why do we argue?
Is it so that we can win a competition, and feel the adrenaline rush of victory? Is it to make another person feel ashamed of themselves? Is it to make sure other people know what we support, or don’t support? Is it because if we don’t, the other side will be the only ones talking?
Facebook, Twitter, and even our face to face conversations are filled with arguments. Should we have more gun regulation? Should we have less? Should we stop people from coming across the border? Is it too hard to become a citizen already? Are the Democrats using dirty tricks to gain political advantage? Are the Republicans ignoring injustice because it helps them politically?
Whose side are you on?
Many have seen people attacked with cruelty and cold-hearted rage over these disagreements. Some people have decided they don’t want to be a part of it anymore and stay away from social media, at least for a time. Is this the way we should respond, as Christians? Should we stay out of the mud, so that we don’t offend anyone? So we don’t get hurt?
Why do we argue?
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:11-16 (NASB)
So, if we are to be insulted and persecuted, we must engage with people, right? We must have a visible presence in the world if people are going to want to falsely say evil against us. So shutting down is not the answer. We cannot hide. We are needed. We must be light.
Without the light, how will people know where they are? Or where they are going? Or what they are doing? People are grappling with difficult problems, and decisions must be made. Should things change, or stay the same? If something must change, how? What should we do about the new problems that the changes create?
How will people make these decisions in the dark?
Why do we argue?
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
If we should argue, we should do so because we love.
Because we want others to be able to grow. Because we want them to be able to rejoice in the truth. Sometimes, because they are hurting themselves or others. Sometimes, because false beliefs can lead to mistakes, which can lead to unnecessary and unproductive pain. Once again, the answer is that it is not about us.
How does it feel when we discover we are wrong? When we have argued, perhaps for years, and discover we are completely and utterly wrong? It is painful. It is embarrassing. It is hard.
So how should we feel when someone else is wrong, and does not see it? Angry? Disgusted? Annoyed? And, what about if they finally see it, and understand how they were wrong? Happy? Victorious? Frustrated at how long it took?
We should be grieved. We should feel the pain that they feel and seek to comfort. Which one of us has not also been wrong at one time or another? And knowing that, we should also be humble and careful to listen when we argue. This also could be one of those times.
We argue because we love. But how do we argue?
We should argue with patience. We should argue with kindness and not out of jealousy. We should argue without arrogance, but by maintaining everyone’s dignity. We should not try to gain anything from it, and we should not let ourselves be provoked into hurting others. We should not hold it against people for the names they call us, or the way they treat us, and we should not be glad when our opponents make a mistake or get hurt. Instead, we should hold on to the truth, even if it means helping our opponent’s argument. We should bear with each other, believe each other, hope for each other, and endure each other’s pain.
Let us stop arguing like children, and begin to do so as adults.