Column: Are You Talkin’ to Me?
“Don’t have anything to do with foolish or stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone …” – The Apostle Paul to young Timothy, 2 Timothy 2:23-24
Paul was alone in a Roman dungeon, his death drawing near. Out of loneliness for his friends and deep concern for Christians persecuted by the Emperor Nero, Paul penned this advice to Timothy. Whether dealing with evil desires, bad theology, or Roman tyrants, Paul stressed the importance of not being resentful.
“Gently instruct,” Paul continued, “hope that God will grant them repentance leading to knowledge … that they will come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”
Non-believers love it when Christians don’t argue back, but hate it when Christianity hints its silence is because the non-believer is in the throes of Satan. While a non-believer likely – indignantly – proclaims “You can’t judge me!”, Paul is merely telling the Christian to exercise discernment. Paul continues:
“… There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. … [they] are never able to acknowledge the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:1-7)
Whew. And this was written 2,000 years ago. Think the Bible is out of date? Have you watched a newscast lately? It requires a progressively stronger and stronger stomach – and spiritual numbness – to pay close attention to our current national political and cultural conversation. Anywhere one looks in society – politics, finance, entertainment, academics, science, social structures, civil rights, even sports – a communal blind eye ignores obvious biblical instruction. We are culturally inundated with what G.K. Chesterton a century ago called “truisms that aren’t true.”
Just last week, American columnist Peggy Noonan noted “the eroding end of the idea that religious scruples and beliefs have a high place that must culturally and politically be respected.” I agree. Religion – Christianity – isn’t finally about obedience or argument; it’s about glorifying God and selflessly loving and serving our neighbor.
Paul offers several expositions of worldly wrongness juxtaposed with divine temperament – Romans 1:11-31, Galatians 5:16-26, Ephesians 4:17-5:21, Colossians 3:1-17, and others. All are instructions relevant in today’s world.
All are God talking to us.
Are we listening? Are you?
Walters (firstname.lastname@example.org), mea culpa, argues way too much. Noonan also wisely wrote, “The truly tolerant give each other a little space.” Amen.