Friday, February 03, 2017

Useless Arguments

"Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way." (James 4:1, MSG)


Skim your Facebook feed and tell me this isn't so. Politics, religion, even griping about your boss/job/kids/school- it all comes from the same place in our hearts: we don't get what we want, so we complain. We may have grown up but we still act like spoiled children. We've just taken our tantrums from our bedroom floor to our Facebook wall.

"Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels." (2 Timothy 2:3, NIV)

"But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless." (Titus 3:9, NIV)

Useless, foolish, and stupid arguments. Sounds like social media.

I'm not saying we should be silent. We can cheer on or favorite sports team, or talk smack against a rival. We can share videos of cats being scared of cucumbers. We can also share headlines that catch our attention, make us scratch our heads, and at times make us question our place in the world.

Yes we can talk about religion and politics, taboo topics at the dinner table. But there's a right way to do it.

*****

When I was in college, I heard a sermon from Romans 12. At the time I'd go to church when I felt like it, leave feeling justified, and continue living as before. The Sunday I heard this sermon probably followed a Saturday night partying. It is likely I was hungover. But for the first time in a long time, the word came alive. My ears perked. I heard something I had never heard before: what my life was supposed to look like.

I don't remember the specific passage discussed; I know it wasn't the whole chapter. But my curiosity was piqued, I had to go back to my room and read the whole thing. I had to know what this was about. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. Romans 12 described what a Christian was supposed to look like. I didn't look like that. My friends didn't look like that. My church didn't look like that. This one chapter rocked my world.

Romans 12 has been a central part of my Christianity ever since. Even last weekend a guest preacher was giving his sermon and described Romans 12 as a "mini Bible"; that whenever we're not sure what we should do, we can always turn there for guidance.

Even if we debating politics.

For the past few months I've been teaching through the book of Romans. The first eleven chapters are deep in theology and history, filled with cultural nuances and relational complexities. But then Paul shifts gears. Therefore... because of everything I just bored you to tears with, live this way.

And as the Bible is wont to do, studying Romans 12 in our current polarized political context brought forth fresh insight. Those same key verses rang true, but they rang more clearly than they had before.

*****

"Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought." (Romans 12:3, NIV)

Besides our selfish motives, what causes fights and quarrels among us is pride. If I'm arguing with someone, I obviously think I'm right. Therefore, you must be wrong. We don't communicate with a sense of humility. We don't consider opinions outside our own echo chamber. We are not open-minded.

So we just shout past one another.

"As much as it depends on you, live at peace with one another" (Romans 12:18, 84NIV)

So we fight and we quarrel and we don't get what we want. We don't try and be peacemakers. We have to be right. Our worldview must be reinforced. Our political convictions must be protected at all costs.

And so we don't listen. We don't consider other people's perspectives, their experiences, their feelings. And we continue to divide.

"Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21)

We need to change our political discourse. We need to heed Paul's instructions. We must speak humbly, be peacemakers, and avoid sowing division.

*****

There is a lot going on in the world right now (there always is!). There is a lot to be concerned about (but not everything, and not everything the media would want you to think). As Christians, we need to stand out as light. We need to change the perception that we are known more for what we are against than what we are for. Bottom line, we need to love.

I wonder, if we all put this into practice what would my Facebook feed look like? Or maybe I should just go back to watching cat videos.

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