What Ever Happened to Not Being Quarrelsome?
Arguments are nothing new. Arguing goes all the way back to the Garden when Adam and Eve couldn’t agree on whose fault it was for their failure. Ever since then mankind has been arguing and quarreling. Yet, today it’s at an all-time high thanks to social media. Instead of seeing that person you disagree with face to face all you have to do is go on Facebook and get into a dispute. We see something that we disagree with and immediately begin an argument. Now, I’m not saying that saying something negative is always a bad thing, but correction and contention are two different things. Most of the arguments I see on Facebook and other social media isn’t friendly and definitely isn’t honoring to God.
You know what makes this argumentative social media era worse? I see a lot of pastors joining in or even starting these ungodly arguments. Many of these arguments are directly contrary to the qualifications for pastors given by Paul in I Timothy 3 one of which says that pastors are to not be “quarrelsome.” This word means peaceable or uncontentious. Pastors are to be men of peace, not men of constant contention as many have become online. This isn’t just for pastors either. Just because this is written specifically to pastors, does not mean that other Christians should not aim for this ideal.
Again, some might ask "What about defending the faith? Arn’t we supposed to contend for it?" Yes, obviously, the Gospel is to be fought for and defended. Yet, most of the time the Gospel is not on the line in these arguments, only preference and pride. Don't hide behind the Gospel and use it as your shield for criticism regarding your preferences. Here are are 7 ways to avoid being quarrelsome online if you find yourself in an arguement on preference or opinion:
1. Don’t post mean things.
Yes, sometimes it is just that simple. In a radicalized political climate, people feel free to post all sorts of vile and needlessly contentious posts. Most of these types of posts are disguised as some type of comedic meme. Ask yourself if this is upbuilding or is it just mean. Sometimes these type of rude comments can be hyperbolic statements. “Everyone who thinks this is…” or “All of these people are.” These types of exaggerative statements are seldom true and most often said from a frustrated heart. Perhaps it would be wiser to sit on these types of thoughts and if necessary write a blog post where you can explain your total view without boiling it down to statements that are offensive. So far I’ve given the benefit of a doubt to people who post mean things, but there are many who just want to yell hurtful things into the aether without seeing the face of those affected by their words. To them I just say, don’t be a jerk.
2. Avoid Personal Attacks AT ALL COSTS.
Some arguments begin well. Two sides are discussing their opinions and then out of nowhere one side will attack the person holding the opposing view. Don’t be that guy. Never, ever, attack that person. It’s not becoming as a Christian and it definitely will not help your case. Also remember that the internet is permanent. Anything you say on a discussion board or on social media will be saved to shame you in the future should you resort to this type of thuggery.
3. Assume the best in the other side.
I know you think that you are right, and maybe you are, but that other person also thinks that and perhaps they are right. Or maybe right is somewhere in the middle of the two views. Don't assume the other person is wrong before hearing them out. Don't assume they have it out for you either. Refuse to read into statements, instead deal with thoughts and concepts. Don’t assume your opponent is unintelligent or misinformed. Assume that person is just as much of an expert in that subject as you.
4. Know Who is just in it for the attention.
Some people are blackholes. They consume all the attention they possibly can, which includes your posts on Facebook. They see an opportunity to eat up your time and they bite down hard. In order to make best use of your time and avoid being quarrelsome, you have to have wisdom to know who is just wanting to inform you of their thoughts and who wants to have a discussion. It’s ok to ignore a post or even to delete a post from someone who continues to be quarrelsome. They might have all day, but you don’t.
5. Don’t Assume the high ground.
Just because it’s your view does not mean that God is on your side. Nor does simply quoting a Bible verse mean that you are in the right. It’s about how the Word of God is connected to your argument. Most likely your opponent is also using their Bible, don’t bully them with statements like “You just don’t understand this verse” or “Did you even read that verse?” First, it’s childish. Second, it’s not helpful. If it appears they are missing the point of the text, help them understand. Don’t bully them with your theological education or understanding, but humbly show them what God is saying in His Word.
6. Don’t Make it a pattern.
As I scroll through Facebook and other social media, I see the same people getting into the same type of arguments and inevitably losing their cool and making the same mistakes. Don’t make arguing a pattern in your life. If you are constantly entangled in some sort of argument online, most likely this points to a bigger problem in your heart. Ask yourself why am I constantly fighting with people? There are many sinful attitudes that might be the cause like anger, pride, or maybe envy. Seek out those sinful attitudes and put them to death so you can live at peace with your online community. Remember, sinfully arguing online is just as damnable in the eyes of God as sinfully arguing in person.
7. Just stop already.
I might be a pessimist, but I firmly believe that people do not go online to have their views changed, they go online to express their own views and have them supported. So I ask you, what is the point of that argument? Even if you are right, most likely that person will not change. Again, I’m specifically talking about preferential things not primary ones. There’s no point in causing separation online, when perhaps in person that person will actually listen to you. Save that topic for when you see that person and can have a real dialogue that can possibly create change.
If you are struggling with a sinful attitude that constantly leads you into fighting online battles. You need to realize that sin is serious and it's got to stop. Face to face or screen to screen, it does not matter. Do not be a quarrelsome Christian. And to the pastors who do this regularly, remember Peter’s words, “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”