There’s not much in life that I so completely enjoy more than dinner and stimulating conversation with friends– so I was anticipating a great evening recently when we were out with several couples.
As dinner began, a waiter stopped at out table and asked if we’d like to order wine, and everyone declined. As he walked away, one of the ladies commented, “It’s interesting that the Bible says a lot about wine– but it’s all negative.”
“No, it isn’t!” I immediately reacted, and sat up, prepared for a good discussion on whether the Bible encourages or forbids drinking wine. But one look at her crestfallen face immediately told me that I had shut her down by my reaction. “It’s alright,” she said quietly, “It’s not important…” and the conversation drifted into a total change of direction.
Later that night, I lay in bed wondering about my reaction. Had I been wrong this time? Or was I wrong in all the other times when I myself had been in her shoes– when I myself had felt shut down by others in their zealous reactions to ideas that I believe in or comments I’d made. Like everybody else, I’ve been on both sides of that fence.
Is it wrong, I wondered, to challenge the ideas of others? Or is it a sign of weakness in me– or her, in this case– to feel shut down by someone else’s reaction to something we believe?
Right away, I began to search my heart… and that’s exactly where I found my answer. Over and over, the Bible keeps pointing us back to issues of the heart. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life,” Prov. 4:23. The issue– clearly– was my heart. What had been the motivation of my heart? From my over-zealous reaction, I had communicated that I was out to prove that my opinion was the “right” one. But if that was true, if that was my motivation– to prove that I was “right”– then I was already wrong.
The problem isn’t disagreement. Discussions and even disagreements are inevitable– and healthy. In fact, Dan and I frequently remind each other that we have changed our views– sometimes even beliefs we’d held on to for a long time– on quite a few issues when confronted on how “Biblical” they really were. There were even times when we’d been initially offended by someone who disagreed with us, yet we were eventually won over through convincing proof that ours had not been a Biblical position after all. Everything we believe must conform to God’s Word.
Always, when disagreements rise, our motivation must be to stir each other to pursue the Truth in Christ Jesus– which, of course, means that first I myself have to be constantly willing to change any ideas I’ve stubbornly been holding on to that may not conform to the Truth. There’s no question about it: the Gospel of Jesus Christ is transforming– it’s constantly changing us. We need to get used to change– and we need to be willing to stir others toward God’s Truth, even if it means changing the way they think about an issue. And yet– and this is so important!– always with humility and the right motive.
“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind.. able to teach, patient… correcting his opponents with gentleness.” (2 Tim. 2:22-26)
The goal of our motivation must be to mutually drive each other to succeed in our pursuit of Christ – not to “win the debate” or “prove we are right.” After all, when others succeed in their pursuit of Christ, God is glorified– therefore, we all “win.”
It’s absolutely vital that we hold strongly to the Truth that God has revealed to us in His Word! The Gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful and life-changing, not anemic. Discussions that stir each other to sound Faith are vital– with the right motive! Otherwise, we’ve gained nothing but vain discussions. Paul wrote to Timothy, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion…” (1 Tim. 1:3-7.)
I love stimulating, thought-provoking, faith-building discussions. But I am also shut down by arrogance and self-seeking motivations. By God’s grace, I will try to keep my own motivation in check, and subject my opinions to the far greater desire of wanting to be conformed into the image of Christ in all my thoughts, actions– and certainly, my words.
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