Virtual Reality | Day 12
Christian leaders know they belong to God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (2 Tim 1:5; 3:14)
Over the last two days I’ve developed the truth that we belong to God on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice. This is the critical truth that all Christian leaders must “know.” Knowledge has both content and contact elements. In other words, knowing refers to that settled habit of the mind. That inner disposition that drives our conduct. Today, I will suggest that knowing that we are sound in our faith is a critical component of Christian leadership.
In 2nd Timothy 2:14-19, Paul moves from using general principles with illustrations (soldier, athlete, farmer) to specific commands designed to encourage continued faithfulness. Christ-like character is demonstrated when a leader “knows” the essential content of their faith is “right.”
I’m not talking about “knowing everything” but knowing the essential elements of the Gospel that satisfies God’s holy character and expresses His love. There is no room for error on this! Today’s topic becomes important because we are about to journey into the second quadrant: relativism. Relativism is where truth is personal and relative. A person who knows they are right faces the temptation to laud it over others. Not so the Christian leader. The Christian who knows that they are sound in their faith reacts to all things with humility. Remembering who we are in Christ and how secure we are in Christ (and therefore how right we are in Christ) causes us to both speak and act differently. It enables us to challenge relativism with wisdom and to avoid authoritarianism through maintaining a humble spirit.
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity." 2 Timothy 2:14-19
This text is both a warning and a subtle exhortation for Timothy not to be drawn in to arguments that are not beneficial to the cause of Christ. How we handle our knowledge matters. As far as it depends on us, what do the Scriptures say Christian leaders are to do to prevent meaningless arguments among the flock?
Argument Preventer #1: Focus on the essentials
Unity in the body is best maintained around the person of Jesus. If we focus on Jesus unity is not only possible, but likely.
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Hamburg was a church of over 50 nations with as many different denominations represented yet unity was possible. Why? Rather than me tell you, let me read the conclusion of an article entitled Can a Multinational Church be “One Body”, written in a Missions magazine about the church I pastored:
“The secret of this incredible community is the common focus on the mutual Lord of the Church: JESUS! … It appears to me that only by intensively focusing on Christ and working for a common goal can effective integration occur. This goal is found over and above an ethnic-cultural level and encompasses everyone. The emphasis must be on the expression of the spiritual life within these different ethnic cultures and not upon stressing an ethnic cultural identity in and of itself. JESUS is indeed in a position to create unity in His Body, however only, when HE is the center.”
Unity is possible when leaders’ focus on the essentials; on Jesus’ promise of life.
Argument Preventer #2: Maintain self-control
Arguments can be prevented when people maintain self-control.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. Proverbs 15:1-2
Have you ever tried to argue in a whisper? It is equally hard to argue with someone who insists on answering softly. To turn away wrath and seek peace, quiet words are always our best course of action.
Argument Preventer #3: Be clear
Paul warned Titus, leader of the churches in Crete, as he has warned Timothy, leader of the church in Ephesus, not to get involved in arguments over questions that no one can answer (2 Tim. 2:14).
But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Titus 3:9
This does not mean that we should not study, discuss, and examine the argument, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t disagree on the basis of Scripture. We need to be clear, but clarity does not demand an argumentative stance. When foolish conversations occur, like that of Hymenaeus and Philetus, we are to turn the discussion back to the truth so that it goes somewhere productive or excuse ourselves from the conversation.
Argument Preventer #4: Don’t get involved
Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears. Proverbs 26:17
I love the picture in this text. Anyone ever pulled a dog’s ears? This is a great way to get bitten! In the same way interfering in another person’s argument is a great way of getting hurt. As a teenager I remember walking on Porthcawl Promenade (about 4 miles from home) when a woman jumped out of a car at a stop light, screaming and carrying hysterically. A man jumped out of the driver’s side after her. A passerby saw the incident and, fearing the worst, sought to help the lady. Big mistake. Both of them started at him. See, he thought she was being physically threatened, but she wasn’t and both turned on him.
Proverbs 26:17 encourages us to sit out of arguments that are none of our business. If we do become involved, try to wait until the arguers have stopped fighting and cooled off a little. Then maybe we can help them mend their differences and their relationship.
Food for Thought:
Does “knowing” you are right cause humility and gentleness to spring from your lips, or pride and aggression? If the latter, what is God saying to you? If the former, how would you coach someone who struggles with the former?
Which of these four preventers is God’s Word to you today? Why?