I'm going to preach for a minute. Because this is my blog, and I have some things on my mind. Some things that I've been thinking about lately, and some things that have been bothering me.
I've been studying in 1 and 2 Timothy lately, and I've been very struck by how many times Paul admonishes Timothy not to get caught up in arguments about 'words' - or, we would say today, 'semantics'. One example of this is in 2 Timothy 2:14 - Paul tells Timothy "not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers". In verse 15, immediately following this admonition, Paul encourages Timothy to study the Word of God and "be diligent to present yourself to God, as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth". In verse 16, he reiterates: "avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness".
Have you ever known someone who was ready at any opportunity to pick a fight about theology (or possibly any other subject)? Is that how Paul is saying we should be known as Christians?
Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't study the word and engage in honest, thoughtful, open, sharpening conversations about what certain things in Scripture mean, and what the intent of the author is in the passage, etc. 2 Timothy 2:15 clearly reminds us that we are to study God's Word and get to know it, even 'rightly dividing' it - using discernment to apply it correctly to our lives, so obviously it's important to God that we understand and deeply study His Word.
But there are times that our defense of our theology gets out of hand. We can get so caught up in our semantics that we begin to tear down our brothers and sisters in Christ, in order to build up our own viewpoints about what we think on a particular subject. And this is not how it should be. When those who don't know Christ (or maybe those who don't know Him well) see us engaging in this kind of behavior, is their first thought, "Wow - I want what they have! I want one more thing in my life to argue about, because I don't have enough now!"
Instead, our goal should always be to encourage others, and to draw them closer to Christ. Discussing Genesis 12:2 this week, where God promises Abram that he will 'be a blessing' to others, I was reminded that this is the way God wants others to see His people. We should always be striving to build others up, and when they leave our presence, they should leave in a better state than when they came. Do you know someone like this - when you are with them, they are just so encouraging and so joyful and thoughtful that when you leave their presence, you can't help but be cheerful yourself? I know several people like this, and they are just such a blessing to be around. If I didn't already know Christ, I would definitely be asking them, "What's different about you? I want what you have!"
"The memory of the righteous will be a blessing." -Proverbs 10:7