Christians: Avoid Foolish Arguments!

Years ago, I was facilitating a leadership retreat for an ecumenical group of students and adults when an argument started over whether Christians should have tattoos.  

It didn't take long before the entire session we had planned was hijacked because of the debate. 

The people who gathered for this retreat represented a number of North Florida church youth groups from different theological and denominational backgrounds--conservative, progressive, Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Non-denominational, and the like.     

There were a few of us in the room who actually had tattoos, and our ability to lead was being called into question by some of the participants.  Lines were quickly drawn and before we knew it, that one argument grew into several arguments, and the group began to devolve into factions.  

It was at that point that a young woman stood up with her Bible in her hand.  Everyone got quiet as she read in a soft voice the following verse: 

"Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels." (2 Timothy 2:23)

Then she sat down without saying another word.  

Finally, the director of the retreat softly suggested that we join hands and pray together, and so we did.  He prayed that we would be faithful, that we would focus on the most important reason why we were gathering together: To draw closer to Jesus, so we could help others do the same.  

When he finished praying, the retreat resumed.  It ended up being one of the most effective and energetic leadership retreats that our organization had conducted in many years.  

I've thought about that moment many times--especially when I am struggling to understand why Christians can't seem to get along with other Christians.  I have recalled that young woman and her soft voice reading Scripture more than once when I have become frustrated with fellow Christians, who hold beliefs I don't understand.  

In the end, Christian unity depends on honesty and mutual forbearance.  Any disagreement over theology, interpretation of Scripture, denominational difference that distracts Christians from knowing and showing Jesus to the world might very well be considered a "foolish and stupid" argument.  

St. Augustine addressed this kind of thing in the late 300's--which gives you an idea as to how long these kinds of discussions have been going on in Christian culture.  He wrote, "In essentials unity; In non-essentials liberty; In all things charity."  

As soon as we lose sight of what unites us as Christians (to know and show Jesus) it becomes all too easy to focus instead on the things that divide us.  We need to be united around the essential things, show liberty to others in the non-essentials and constantly show love and forbearance to one another.

May you find ways to be united with your brothers and sisters in Christ, who may believe or behave differently than you.  May you show love and forbearance, focusing on knowing and showing Jesus to the world.  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.    


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