Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 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 2:25-26 (NIV).
More about wading into discussions or arguments with opponents. While the spirit of the idea applies to any discussion, keep in mind that Paul’s advice here regards those who opposed Timothy in spiritual matters. There were people in Timothy’s circle who were living in sin, or whose beliefs were contrary to Jesus’ gospel. Some embraced Gnostic beliefs that were heretical to what Paul had taught; some were perpetuating the traditional Jewish laws in the new Christian church. Paul reminded Timothy that his purpose was to help them to see their need for Christ and return to Him.
How does this apply today? It might seem fun to think that ‘the other guy’ and his wacky politics are Satanic, but that probably isn’t true. And even if it were, it’s better to remember that Jesus wants that other guy in His Kingdom as much as He wants you and I. Perhaps Jesus has you or I in their lives to spread His Gospel to them. Preach that Gospel constantly; if necessary, use words. Remember that ‘the other guy’ is probably as sinful and confused as me and you. None of this is saying we should compromise godly principles or surrender our faith. It is, however, saying that we should uphold that faith while being empathetic towards understanding another’s predicament.
We do all this because Jesus wants them for His Kingdom, too. Your worst enemy is Jesus’ dear child. The overbearing progressive, the strident conservative, the bully who makes your life awful: all are precious in His sight. He mourns their sins as much as He mourns mine, and He wants them to be gently instructed, lovingly reminded that God in Christ loves them, forgives them, believes in them. Jesus’ enemy, the devil, works overtime to pull down those on the fence. You and I, soldiers in the Lord’s Army, then, get the mission of running into the breach, of standing between those opponents and the devil who would destroy their souls. We get to stand up for Jesus because they won’t or can’t. We get to stand for Him and witness to the devil that he is defeated, unwelcome, cast out.
I suppose that’s pretty far afield from why we shouldn’t wade into foolish arguments, but the bottom line of it is the same. We’re followers of Jesus, in some cases His called servants. It’s our place to witness boldly, lovingly, and kindly, especially to those who would oppose what we say. In doing so, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
For further reading: 1 Timothy 2:4, 1 Timothy 3:7, 2 Timothy 3:1.
Lord Jesus, let Your Spirit put the words in my mouth as I speak for You today.