• Proverbs 19:11 (ESV): “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
• James 1:19 (CSB): “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”
• Ephesians 4:26 (NIV): “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”
• PHILIPPIANS 2:4 (NKJV): “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
AVOID SENSELESS ARGUMENTS
THE KINGDOM OF ME. It’s all about me. Didn’t you know that? It’s not about you … not about us … just about me. Your role? Well, to satisfy my needs, to make me happy.
You say: What a terribly egocentric, anti-social, narcissistic mindset. No thought for anyone else, just yourself.
I agree with you. My statement of personal interest is everything selfish you said it is.
However, now that I’m a born-again Christian, the Holy Spirit works within me to change all of that, to make certain I don’t consider myself “more highly than I ought” (see Rom. 12:3) and that I should consider others needs “more important” than my own (see Phil. 2:3).
But what about those who aren’t born-again Christians? According to the Bible, most of the people we encounter are not born-again Christians, as Jesus defined the term “born again” (see John 3).
IT’S ALL ABOUT ME
YOU ASK, “HOW DOES this ‘all about me’ stuff impact your meditation topic, avoiding arguments? What’s the connection?”
I’ve been meditating and praying a lot in recent weeks about the connection because — this is just what I think happens — arguments erupt when two or more people interact in such a way that each one requires — no, insists on — winning his or her point.
It doesn’t necessarily start off that way. An argument can materialize out of a simple conversation, or maybe an innocent question, or even an off-hand remark that means nothing to the speaker but is dynamite to the listener.
The Bible tells us to avoid such tiffs. In addition to our four text sources above, here are some other gems:
• Proverbs 20:3 (NKJV): “[It is] honorable for a man to stop striving, Since any fool can start a quarrel.”
• Proverbs 21:23 (ESV): “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
• James 3:6a (NIV): “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.”
• Proverbs 15:1 (CSB): “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.”
TRIPPING OVER PRIDE
THE WAY IT SEEMS to go is that our pride gets in the way of our conversation. Someone’s comment does not square with our reality, so we want to ensure that our perspective — which we insist is objectively based — prevails.
For Christians, the most important topics focus on faith issues, whether it’s abortion or same-sex marriage or euthanasia — or a host of other topics — we often believe we are “witnessing” for our faith when we make our point, but before too long, we restate it, then we dig in our heels, then raise our voice, then make bold judgmental comments.
The late Dr. Everett L. Cattell, former president of Malone College in Canton, Ohio, had this to say about arguing as it relates to Christian witness:
“Witnessing is not arguing. I used to get a thrill of self-statisfaction when, with fellow university students, I found I could hold my own arguing an evangelical faith. But nobody got converted by it. Whenever I find myself arguing religion with any one now, I know I am failing. In witnessing, there is no argument. It is sharing, and if the thing you share is not real, it is false witnessing.”CATTELL, SPIRIT OF HOLINESS, P. 19)
Instead of demanding recognition of your point, no matter how valid you believe it to be, perhaps sprinkle your speech with salt.
The Bible tells us in Colossians 4:6 (ESV): “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
KINGDOM OF SELF
LET’S FINISH WITH a word of advice from Pastor and Author Paul David Tripp, who speaks of “The Kingdom of Self” and it’s fight with God’s Kingdom.
Tripp gives us five questions to ask in self-examination to highlight how sin tarnishes our motives, words, and actions from the high-minded ideal we hold to the way it gets played out.
- 1. SELF-FOCUS: Before making a decision, do you think, “What’s in it for me?” or do you freely sacrifice for the good of another without expecting a return?
- 2. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS: Are you more concerned with, and on the lookout for, the sin, weakness, and moral failure of others than you are your own?
- 3. SELF-SATISFACTION: Do you regularly feel discontent, always looking for something new to satisfy you, instead of being satisfied with a God-honoring life?
- 4. SELF-RELIANCE: Do you avoid living in intrusive and intentional relationships, where others admit their need for grace and seek the help of biblical community?
- 5. SELF-RULE: Which law gets the most attention and the quickest response in your life and relationships, the Word of God or your own desires?
PAUL DAVID TRIPP points out that Jesus showed anger when someone violated God’s laws, but men and women show anger when someone violates their laws. This is especially true, he said, for married couples, who constantly navigate the petit irritations of close living.
In his book Love and Respect, Emerson Eggerichs asks us to imagine that Jesus is standing behind the person we’re disputing with, saying, “I created this person in My image. Whatever you say to him (or her), you’re saying to Me.”
Well, that would shut us up fast! At least it would encourage us to tone down our rhetoric, maybe cause us to lead with our ears over our tongues.
Here’s the apostle Paul’s exhortation to his disciple Timothy in his ministry:
OUR MOST GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL FATHER, we humbly come to You in repentance of our sin, of arrogance and pride, of selfishness and lack of compassion, of judgment and condemnation of others. O Lord, You made us in Your image and yet we flop around in our sin, living a life ruled by distorted vision of Your design. Forgive us, O Lord, and claim us as Your own, washing our sin away by the Lamb’s blood, and giving us the assurance that no one can snatch us from Your hand. In Jesus’ glorious name we pray. AMEN