And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26
There’s certainly been a lot of “quarreling” the last 20 years in the United States and the world in general. These last few years have seen a steady rise in conflicts. Conflicts used to be among countries. The most troublesome trend seems to be that now more than ever they are among neighbors.
We live in a world where all bets are off when it comes to social niceties. One article I read reminds us of some of the following “old fashioned etiquette rules”:
- Don’t point
- Don’t curse
- Dress to impress
- Stick to tasteful topics
- Cover your mouth when you cough
- Avoid private conversations in public
All of those, plus the others I haven’t listed, are to allow for a calm and peaceful and respectful social environment. But a cell phone video I saw the other day is just one example of how we’ve thrown so many of these out the window.
The video, taken by a woman shopping at Target, shows an older man following her and pointing at her. He has a mask on and a sticker stating, “I’m vaccinated.” His issue with her? She isn’t wearing a mask. Now, this post is not about the pros and cons of mask wearing. And in this instance wearing a mask was not mandated in that store. It’s about his approach and her response. This man had many choices prior to harassing this woman. If he was really worried about getting sick he could 1) stay home and order on line or 2) avoided being near the woman. Interestingly enough he didn’t seem to be doing any of his own shopping. It appeared he was there to “catch” people without a mask.
What does this have to do with being a Christian? What does it have to do with being resolute in Christ? Our choices each and every minute of the day define what type of Christian we have chosen to be.
In our verse today we are reminded to be kind to everyone. To teach gently without resentment. We are all most likely familiar with the term being a “Karen.” That’s someone who is a tattle tell, a modern day Pharisee. This man was being a Karen. And he certainly wasn’t succeeding in teaching anyone anything positive. Yet the new social norms say this is ok. We are to vilify those with whom we disagree. We may not all be Westboro Baptist Church members standing outside the funerals of homosexuals with messages of hatred but how many of us in the last year have made disparaging remarks about people who 1) don’t wear a mask or do wear a mask, 2) aren’t vaccinated, 3) voted for a different candidate, 4) don’t like shutdowns or do like shutdowns, and on and on. I’m not talking about private conversations with friends or family members. I’m talking about in public and social media. I’ve clicked on people’s profiles who have written horrible things and they proudly state they are Christians.
And the woman? She wasn’t successful either. She just kept arguing with the man. She could’ve 1) smiled and moved on since he wasn’t physically threatening her 2) put a mask on to make him feel better 3) left the store and come back later 4) called security 5) invited him over to talk. So many choices for both. But they chose the least peaceful route.
I, myself, have gotten wrapped up in issues and have deleted comments I realized were not in keeping with my desire to walk well in my faith. And so, I reflect back on that cell phone video taken in Target. I ask myself which person in that video am I? The Harasser? The Victim? The Bystander? In fact, I’ve been all three. But as a follower of Christ, I’m learning He wants something completely different of us. He wants us to be the peacemaker. He wants us to do things so different that it shocks people. Our Jesus–directed actions in this quarrelsome world need to be set apart.
When we get annoyed, outraged, hurt, abused, Jesus tells us to respond differently. He first wants us to be responsible for our own words and actions (James 3:6). He then wants us to be gentle, not angry and resentful. Truth doled out without love will never be received how we intended.
I picture myself the subtle Karen, rolling my eyes at people wearing two masks as they walk outside at a park and I need to stop and have compassion for their fears. I imagine myself in a store being spoken to harshly by a customer for not wearing a mask and instead of responding in kind, draw on the Holy Spirit asking for peace. This isn’t just about these current large issues. It’s how we respond in all life’s situations. Do we lash out, with uncontrolled emotions, seeking to justify how we feel? Or do we use wisdom and compassion to guide us?
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20
The temptation is so great to join this new quarrelsome social environment. It’s easy to blast a comment at someone. The devil loves an angry Believer. But if we remember that Jesus stands by our side, we can be resolute in living the Christian life He expects of us.