“Why is he so mad?”
To the mind of a young child, the teaching of the guest speaker at our church was angry. Consider my perspective, if you will.
I was probably six years old. He was at least in his fifties and was over six feet tall. He pointed. A lot. At us. His face was red and his voice was booming and large. I don’t remember a smile, but a frown coupled with a furled brow.
It looked angry to me.
Perhaps that was a similar image Paul had in mind when he penned 2 Timothy 2:23-24:
Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.2 Timothy 2:23-24
New International Version
Decades ago when I first read these verses, I found them liberating. In theory, it works fairly easily: “don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments…” (verse 23a).
But in practice?
Now that’s something I’m still trying to figure out. After all, some of the quarrels we get into need to be hashed out.
There are probing theological issues truly making a difference in our faith. If nothing else, these theological issues shape our understanding of how God works, His purposes, and His means of salvation. There are some important issues we wrestle with:
- Free will and God’s sovereignty
- Cessation of the “sign gifts” or continuance of the “sign gifts”
- The existence of the Church for those “inside” or “outside” the faith
As you can see, it’s not as simple as it seems!
But it’s highly unlikely the Apostle Paul was talking about the deep, theological struggles we have. After all, the heretical teachers in Ephesus Paul’s been writing about were not helping the faith.
They were hurting the faith.
They were hurting people.
They were leading them dangerously astray.
And they wanted to verbally joust with their pastor, Timothy.
To the pointless, fruitless “clickbait” of the false teachers, Paul advises Timothy to not have anything to do with it. Ignore it. Address the issues when you must, but don’t fight about them.
Fighting with the false teachers wouldn’t help.
And to help young Timothy understand this, Paul adds verse 24, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.”
Timothy should not be marked by an argumentative spirit. Instead, kindness should flow through his ministry. Teaching the truth with and through love would be a more effective strategy in reaching not only the false teachers but also the people being swayed by their lies.
Kindness, however, does not mean spineless. One can’t read Paul and come away thinking he was spineless. But he was kind. As I sometimes remind people, “Some can mistake kindness for weakness”.
Don’t think he is telling us to be weak against falsehood. He did actually instruct Timothy to teach and the content of that teaching was the truth. The tone of the truth, however, should not be mean-spirited, but kind.
Wasn’t Jesus kind to us when He called our name? Of course, He was—and it was the best sound ever!
Therefore, instead of angrily replying to people when they say something out of line, stop.
And “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful” (2 Timothy 2:23-24).