Used at Belhaven University and in the class: Christ-likeness—The Fruit of the Holy Spirit
Anything which lacks love is worthless in God’s sight and displeasing to Him….This knowledge about which you Corinthians boast, is in the opposite camp to love, for it fills men with arrogance and makes them look contemptuously on their brothers. Love on the other hand moves us to concern for our brothers and encourages us to look to their upbuilding. (John Calvin, 1509-1564)1
We say: Talk is cheap; Actions speak louder than words; You talk the talk, but will you walk the walk? The Lord Jesus agrees and said, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?…Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”2 One way we practice Christ-like love is to Discuss Without Unprofitable Arguing.
Scriptures and Warning
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger….A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel….Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife….Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city….It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel….An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins….Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding….Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.3
Some arguments are good and constructive. But the Bible warns us against being antagonistic, argumentative, cantankerous, contentious, combative, divisive, quarrelsome, or trouble making. To heal divisions in our society, families, churches, and communities, we need to learn how to have better conversations. Mounting scientific evidence suggests that the secret may lie in Jesus’ commands through James, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”4 Christ calls us to agree with one another wherever possible, to avoid divisions, and to be perfectly united in mind and thought.5
Avoiding Arguments in Marriage
In their book, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, Francis and Lisa Chan remind us to argue like Christians, handling conflicts and disagreements in a Christ-honoring way. Francis says that they don’t argue much, because they realize they don’t have time for this; they are on a mission for the Lord. Lisa echoes that commitment and says that they don’t want to compete with each other, but want to cooperate and collaborate in their joint goal of pleasing and serving Christ. She says that we are both here to make disciples. And if we spend our time fighting with each other, it will keep us from Jesus’ mission. Divorce isn’t an option for them and they don’t have time to argue about petty things, because they are dealing with eternal goals—hallowing God’s name, advancing His kingdom, and causing His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. The Chans aim to keep these goals foremost in their minds. All of us should do the same.
The Apostle Peter says, “Husbands, be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect…and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” Corresponding words are given to wives in the earlier verses.6 The Chans realize that if the Lord won’t answer their prayers, they are lost and everything will fail. Having God’s help is the most important factor in our life, so husbands and wives, parents and children, church officers and members, brothers and sisters in Christ need to treat one another as God’s sons and daughters, Jesus’ little brothers and sisters, temples of the Holy Spirit. That means we must honor one another, love one another deeply from the heart, building each other up, not tearing them down. The Chans remind us that our goal in marriage and in all relationships is becoming like Jesus, not winning arguments. We are to help each other fight the good fight (against sin and temptation), finish the race, and keep the faith.7
Many Arguments Come from Sinful Pride
Often the person who insists on winning the argument is proud, arrogant, and acts least like Jesus. Three times Scripture says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”8 So if we argue in a proud and arrogant way, we have the Lord opposing us. We might win the argument and lose God’s blessing! Christ sent Paul to command us:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.9
Evangelist Allan Redpath said, “The cause of every discord in Christian homes, communities, and churches is that we seek our own way and our own glory instead of God’s.” John Maxwell agrees, “When you are full of pride on the inside, it makes you stiff, stubborn, and creates strife with others.” We must humble ourselves under the Lord’s mighty hand, treat others as God’s children, and not waste time arguing about things that do not have eternal value. If something is not a big deal to the Lord, then let’s let it go. Let the other person have their way. There are more important things to focus on. “Thanks be to God for a life full-packed with things that matter, crying to be done. A life, thank God, just enough time to do our best, and then pass on, leaving the rest to Him.” (John Oxenham)
Christ Calls us to Pursue Peace
The Lord says: Make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification….Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace….Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.10
Prayer: Heavenly Father, our pride and anger cause us to lash out at people around us in the workplace, the church, and the family. Give us the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Keep us from foolish, pointless, destructive arguments. Grant us the Holy’s Spirit’s fruit of love, patience, and self control to hold our tongues. Give us strength to overcome our indwelling sin. Makes us peacemakers like Jesus, the Prince of Peace. We pray in His name. Amen.
Notes (various translations): 1 First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, p. 171. 2 Luke 6:46; 1 John 3:18. 3 Prov 15:1,18; 16:32: 17:1,27; 20:3; 29:22; Phil 2:14-16. 4 Why We Argue Best with Our Mouths Shut, Christine Herman, Christianity Today, May 26, 2017. 5 1 Cor 1:10. 6 1 Peter 3:1-7, see also Eph 5:21-33. 7 2 Tim 4:7. 8 Prov 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5. 9 Eph 4:29-5:2. 10 Rom 14:19; Eph 4:3; Heb 12:14.