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If Possible, Live Peacably

A fitting addendum to yesterday’s post:

imgNow, we need to keep this in proper perspective. I’m not suggesting that every disagreement is an occasion for open combat, or even harsh words. Far from it. Many disagreements are so petty that it would be utterly unprofitable to engender strife over them. Merely personal conflicts, debates over arcane or unclear things, and semantic disputes usually fall into that category (2 Timothy 2:14, 23; 1 Corinthians 1:10). Not every issue on which we might hold strong opinions and disagree is of primary importance.
   Furthermore, no one who is mentally and spiritually healthy enjoys conflict for conflict’s sake. No one who thinks biblically would ever relish strife or deliberately indulge in “disputes over doubtful things” (Romans 14:1). Most of us know people who are overly pugnacious or incurably argumentative about practically everything. That is not at all what Jesus was like. And Scripture gives us no warrant to be like that. Petty or insignificant personal disagreements usually ought to be either charitably set aside or settled by friendly dialogue. Anyone who is prepared to pick a fight over every minor difference of opinion is spiritually immature, sinfully belligerent—or worse. Scripture includes this clear command: “if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).

. . . dialogue does sound nicer than debate. Who but a fool wouldn’t prefer a calm conversation instead of conflict and confrontation?
   In fact, let’s state this plainly once more: Generally speaking, avoiding conflicts is a good ideal. Warmth and in geniality are normally preferable to cold harshness. Civility, compassion and good manners are in short supply these days, and we ought have more of them. Gentleness, a soft answer, and a kind word usually go farther than an argument or a rebuke,. That which edifies is more helpful and more fruitful in the long fun than criticism. Cultivating friends is more pleasant and more profitable than crusading against enemies. And it’s ordinarily better to be tender and mild rather than curt and combative—especially to the victims of false teaching
   But those qualifying words are vital: usually, ordinarily, generally. Avoiding conflict is not always the right thing. Sometimes it is downright sinful. Particularly in times like these, when almost no error is deemed too serious to be excluded form the evangelical conversation, and while the Lord’s flock is being infiltrated by wolves dressed like prophets, declaring visions of peace when there is no peace (cf. Ezekiel 13:16).
   Even the kindest, gentlest shepherd sometimes needs to throw rocks at the wolves who come in sheep’s clothing.

—John MacArthur, The Jesus You Can’t Ignore (Thomas Nelson, 2009), xi–xii, 19.

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