Disputes and arguments occurred in the first century Church, occur today, and will come again (Acts 15:2, 37–40). How is a Christian to manage such conflicts? The New Testament instructs Christians about how to handle disputes with one another. This divine wisdom crosses over into how to deal with disputes in marriage, between children and parents, in the work place, and wit neighbors.
Sadly, many believers consider their opinions to be gospel and consider the Gospel to be an opinion. These stand upon their own reasoning rather, than by the words of Christ. Where is the peace: in the words of Jesus or in the thinking of man? Let Jesus guide us. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God” (Matt 5:9).
Disputing hurts the hearers, the witnesses of the dispute. The believer must be reminded of the sin of reviling and slandering others. Notice that I say believer and not Christian. Christ’s Spirit taught in 2 Timothy 2:14–15,
Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
We can argue all day over opinions or the Gospel, and yet sin. I find it interesting that the previous passage about not striving over words carries over to diligence in handling God’s Word. Yet, when some make their opinions and their traditions matters of dispute, then they are certainly guilty causing or at least carrying a dispute. Our opinions and expectations cannot judge others. Christ’s words will judge those who reject them (John 12:47–48).
Focus on 1 Timothy 6:3–5, where Christ’s Spirit revealed,
If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.
Do you want to argue your point endlessly? That is pride. Do you want to dispute while not gaining an agreement or a friend? That is pride. Do you argue so that which are left are jealousy, strife, and suspicions from either side? This is pride. Do you quarrel until the thoughts of either party goes into reviling each other? From the division and quarrelsome, Christians withdraw and avoid them, and Christians are sure to stand on the wholesome words of Christ. In the end, if arguing over opinions or doctrine hurts others rather than convince, then it is useless and such words are only making things worse.
Christians avoid disputes, because even when the false teaching of some is overthrowing faith. Listen to Jesus Spirit in 2 Timothy 2:16–18,
But avoid profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.
However, avoiding does not mean that we do not correct and rebuke false teaching, but rather we are not going to dispute back and forth. Christians must refer to Christ’s word given through the Apostles and prophets in the Scriptures and then move on. Listen to Christ’s Spirit in 2 Timothy 2:23–26,
But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
Do not expect someone to repent by approaching them with harsh corrections. Gentleness, patience, and humility are the only ways to correct those who are in opposition.
There are times when Christ is contradicted, annulled, or added to that one must stand, expose, and sharply rebuke evil (Titus 1:13; 2:15), so that others are not led astray by those who seek to divide. Jesus’ Spirit spoke through Paul in 1 Timothy 5:20 saying, “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.” However, there should be no disputes. The Apostle Paul also wrote in Titus 3:9–11,
But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.
Look at Jesus. He debated and refuted false doctrine. He called the Pharisees “brood of vipers,” “blind guides,” and “sons of Satan.” However, His words were not that of a dispute, and at times, He had to sharply rebuke the hard of heart to reach those who were willing to consider the Truth.
If you are at a church where there is a dispute, back away or step aside. There is no place for personal conflict in Christ’s church. Christians are at war with the spiritual powers of darkness and not with each other (Eph 6:12). The divisive and quarrelsome are putting their soul at risk. Why should any other person include themselves?