I Don’t Really Like To Argue

AeropagusI’m probably much closer to a conflict-avoider than a peacemaker, and I don’t have any real hope that Jesus’ blessing in Matthew 5:9 to include conflict-avoiders like me.

But, apparently, arguing — and arguing persuasively — is very much essential to the spread of the gospel. At least it is, if you’re looking at the example of Paul.

When on a mission trip, he almost always went first to a synagogue. (Acts 9:20; 13:5, 14; 14:1 – “as usual”; 17:2 – “as was his custom”; 17:10; 18:4, 19; 19:18.) That makes sense:

  1. It’s what Jesus did (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 12:9; 13:54 and parallel/other references in the companion gospels). And Paul was all about imitating Christ (Philippians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 11:1). 
  2. Jews and proselytes in the synagogue would already have a basic familiarity with one God, the law and the prophets. So Paul could start from there to prove that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, who had to die and to be raised from death. Maybe the most complete sermon of this approach was to Pisidian Antioch, recorded in Acts 13:13ff.
  3. There, the folks in the synagogue asked for a word of encouragement; Paul preached the gospel, but he did so proving each point from scripture. Not a bad example to follow.

In many instances, he encountered opposition. That means he couldn’t just preach. He had to argue with the Jews who refused to believe (Acts 14:2-7; 15:1-2; 17:1-5; 18:5-6). It was important to demonstrate, both to those who believed and those who doubted, that there was no backing down from the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Once again, Paul was imitating Jesus — who would not back down from persuading people to reach the conclusion that He was the Messiah, the Christ, who had to die and live again.

He didn’t argue much with pagans; there was too much teaching to do. And God had a tendency to either defuse tense confrontations with pagans (often with miracles) or to place Paul in them under circumstances of trial as a Roman citizen so he could teach, as Jesus had prophesied in Matthew 10:19 and Mark 13:11 (which he did, often with remarkable humility and humor – see Acts 26).

So I find that the teaching of scripture is that believers who want to share the gospel …

  1. need to spend their words and passion teaching those who do not know God, not so much arguing with them.
  2. may have to argue from time to time with those who believe in the one God — sometimes even those who believe in His Son Jesus (as was the case with the circumcision party in Acts 15) — to prove persuasively that the gospel is not a matter of obeying man’s law, but of accepting the forgiveness of God through the grace shown in Jesus Christ.

This is difficult for me. I don’t really like to argue.

But, sometimes, that is what I am called to do.

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5 thoughts on “I Don’t Really Like To Argue

  1. You are right on Keith. I don’t know of anyone who was or has been brought to the Lord without words being spoken. Jesus was about preaching the Kingdom. Paul was about preaching the resurrection, and he did argue for it. Painting houses and mowing yards may open a door for the gospel to be preached, but unless the gospel of Jesus is shared conversions will not follow.

  2. Keith, Good points, but I would like to change the word ‘argue’ to ‘reason with’. Now, as one who is accused of arguing at times, I would really rather people understood that just because someone doesn’t share your wrong opinion and is willing to help you find the err of your ways…..(and yes, that is laced with sarcasm, not arrogance)….doesn’t mean they are arguing. Arguing really is foolish. It’s been pointed out to me that feelings are something you can’t argue about…someone feels what they feel. When you tell them otherwise, an argument surely can arise….In contrast, facts are facts and truth can be truth….those are, at least on a relative scale, unarguable…..but must find the basis of analysis or the facts that create and spell out what truth is or isn’t. Reasoning with someone is to point out something they may not be considering, offering new information for their consideration vs. just telling them they are wrong, without new information.

    That may all sound like semantics, but if we can recognize that when in disagreement that there may be more information needed, that it would/could change my perspective…..and I would want someone else to be open to my input of new information or perspective….we should seek that understanding first vs. being blindly understood by others. (thank you Steven Covey).

  3. I clicked the links in the first two paragraphs and bounced around to different translations on those verses. I think the Sermon on the Mount reference to peacemaking is to be a applied where conflict exists; but I believe the Acts reference is more concerned with the art of rhetoric — central to Greek academic training — or the art of persuasion or what we would call apologetics.

    Besides, the time frame in the Acts reference is three months, and I can’t picture Paul yelling for 90 days, though, to be honest, I can easily picture some contemporary preachers doing so.

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