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Devotional: August 24, 2020

Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey.

    2 Timothy 2: 23-24           The Message

These days, it feels as if our world is consumed by arguments, and rage.  What’s more, people seem much more taken with the idea of shouting, rather than listening. There doesn’t appear to be much agreeing to disagree. Some of this is due to social media, where it is easier to argue with someone who is on the computer, and not in front of you. 

Here, Paul advises his younger protégé Timothy about what’s important. Centuries later, his wise advice still holds true. People are always going to have different opinions and different views. Just because you can argue a point does not mean that you should, as disagreements can turn into broken relationships. 

Discussions, and differing opinions are a good thing. We are challenged to think about why and what we believe. Yet when discussions escalate to arguments, the messages get lost in emotions. Sadly, some of those topics may not even matter in the long run. What if you work so hard to prove yourself right, only to discover you weren’t? Justice and truth may lie on the other side of the scale. The message about working through our differences is that we need to keep on working through them. There is a saying: “a person convinced against their will, is of the same opinion still”. 

It is so true when Paul states that God’s servants must not be argumentative. Yet so often in the history of the church, arguments have been waged over the smallest matters. Even wars have been waged over some of these differences.  The first serious split in the church occurred over icons, or images, in places of worship. Eastern Orthodox found icons (images of Jesus, the disciples, etc.). to be helpful in worship. Western Christianity did not, and believed that such images were offensive to God. Hindsight is always 20/20. Was it really worth splitting up the church around 1000AD?  Probably not. Ironically, most churches today use different forms of visual images, from stained glass windows to PowerPoint projections. 

Paul also encourages us to keep our cool, especially when others are raging. Unfortunately, as we are watching things unfold and snowball in our cities, the message can be lost in the rage. Passion about something you believe in is not wrong, but how you translate that passion is essential. Making someone feel shamed because they don’t agree with you is only going to distance your message from them. Being patient with those who disagree with us goes a long way in our efforts to witness to them.

More than anything, Paul hopes and prays that Timothy will be known as a “gentle listener.” Are you a gentle listener? Or are you an “open mouth, insert foot” listener? Are you listening and planning your rebuttal? Are you listening to what people are really saying? Not just on the surface, but on a deeper level? Gentle listening is an honest, agenda-free openness to hear and to understand another person’s point of view.  We should listen for what is on a person’s heart.  

One observer pointed out that for someone who was God in the flesh, Jesus asked people a lot of questions. Why is that? Part of the reason is that listening to someone’s answer is one way to show them that you care for them.  Jesus listening to people, demonstrating His care for them. We can do no less.  

While the world rages and argues, perhaps we can model a better way of relating to one another: gentle listening…

Prayer

Lord, 

You gave us ears to hear, eyes to see, hearts to feel, and mouths to speak Your truth. Help us to not wander away from Your desires for us. Keep us on the path that wins hearts over to You. Protect us, and keep us from the hastily-spoken words which sometimes feel crushing to others. Heal relationships that are broken, and guide us towards the ultimate goal of sharing and witnessing to You. We pray this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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