“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth”
2 Timothy 2:24-25
It is a difficult path we are called to walk. God knows how our sin nature tends to get frustrated when things don’t go our way and how we quickly resort to quarreling if others don’t see things the way we do. Perhaps we are trying to respond with strength, believing that the goal is to “win” the argument.
But winning an argument isn’t to be our aim. Our aim is to be love. Always. Love to those who are kind to us and love to those who hate us without cause. Love to those who agree with our stance and love to those who attempt to fight us on it. If love is our aim, if we strive to maintain that focus, the fruit of the Spirit will be seen in us. We will be kind. To everyone. We will show patience, even when confronted with evil. If correction is needed, we will do so with gentleness. We will seek to teach in wisdom and grace, praying always that God would grant repentance to those opposed to Him and that they would be led to a knowledge of His truth.
This is in direct opposition with our sinful nature, and in opposition with how the world tells us we should respond. Because the world so often responds in kind. Their perspective is that if someone is harsh or argumentative, raise your defenses and prepare for battle. If someone wrongs you, you have every right to commit a wrong towards them, because it’s what they deserve and they need to know they can’t walk all over you. If someone needs correcting, try to do so with as much force as possible to make sure they get the message. And if they ignore your correction, try again with more strength.
The world’s solutions miss the point. In love, we seek to build relationships. We are the ambassadors of Christ, who came on a mission of reconciliation and healing, not condemnation. We must trust our God to right the wrongs. We must trust Him to know what He’s doing when He commands us to love the unlovable, to pray for our enemies and to be kind to everyone. Vindication and retribution is not our place. We leave that with the sovereign God of justice and grace. And we rejoice that grace is what we have known. He granted us repentance which led to a knowledge of His truth. He granted it to us, His enemies who deserved only wrath but instead experienced mercy, forgiveness, and compassion. Knowing this, we endeavor to love those around us in hopes that He will do the same for them.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance…But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation”
2 Peter 3:9, 13-15a