"Steer clear of foolish discussions which lead people into the sin of anger with each other. Things will be said that will burn and hurt for a long time to come."
- 2 Timothy 2:16-17 TLB
The verse above is one of the very first truths the Lord taught me about relationships, when I began having a close walk with Him years ago. At the time, I was very eager to share my faith with everyone around me, and I didn't have the wisdom or discernment that more spiritually mature believers tend to possess. I can still remember the occasion years ago when I was talking to a dear neighbor, and I tried to share with her what the Bible said about some of the issues I felt she was dead wrong about. She soon became indignant, angry, and offended, and our relationship has not been the same since. It was a painful lesson, but a very valuable one.
Like most Christians, I have some relatives, neighbors, and acquaintances that I cannot discuss certain topics with, without getting into an argument or heated discussion. This fact used to really bother me, sometimes to the point where I would go against my better judgment, and wind up getting sucked into a destructive debate with those around me. Now I rely on the Lord to help me "steer clear" of discussions that could do more harm than good. One of the things that has helped me most is the realization that I'm simply not going to be able to be as close to some of my loved ones and acquaintances as I'd like to be. The Bible says, "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? (Amos 3:3 NKJV) It's perfectly alright for us to disagree with our close contacts about little things, but where moral issues are concerned, it's important that we agree. Otherwise, we'll be tempted to stray from the truths expressed in God's Word, or we'll be subjected to continual conflict. This is why Scripture says: "Don't become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That's not partnership; that's war." (2 Corinthians 6:14 MSG)
It's true that Christians are called to reach out to those around us with the Gospel message. But it's also true that not everyone will be receptive to that message. In fact, some people will be downright hostile. That's why Jesus said, "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." (Matthew 7:6 NASB) The Savior's words sound harsh, but He's trying to drive home an important point here. Some people simply don't have the spiritual capacity to accept the truth of the Gospel. And if we try to shove it down their throats, they will not only tear us apart, but they will tear apart our holy message. Like Proverbs says: "Don't bother talking sense to fools; they'll only poke fun at your words." (Proverbs 23:9 MSG) And if this happens in the presence of others, it will be "of no value," but will only "ruin those who listen." (2 Timothy 2:14 NIV) As soon as we sense that someone is completely unreceptive to our message, we should back off and silently pray for God's wisdom and discernment, before we press on. When we are led by God's Spirit to minister to others by "speaking the truth in love," our efforts will ultimately prove fruitful and have positive results. (Ephesians 4:15) But when we get into "works of the flesh," trying to minister to others by arguing with them, shaming them, or threatening them, we can do more harm than good.
We all want to see our loved ones saved, but the fact is that in some cases, we may be the last ones God will use to lead them to a knowledge of the truth. Even if this is the case, there are still some things we can do to help. We can persist in prayer for our loved ones, and we can consistently set a Christlike example for them. Since the Lord knows exactly who CAN reach our loved ones, we can even pray that He will put these godly people in their path, and that He'll prepare their hearts in the meantime. As we concentrate on becoming all that God wants US to be, and as we resist becoming overly distracted by the lack of faith of those around us, the Lord will honor our prayers and work in the hearts of those we care for most!
Prayer: Lord, teach me how to steer clear of foolish discussions with others that will do more harm than good. Let me always heed your command which says, "Beginning a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out." (Proverbs 17:14 NLT) Help me to spend time in Your presence and Your Word, so that I'll become sensitive and obedient to Your Spirit's leading in my dealings with others. Thank You for making me a powerful and effective intercessor and witness for Your glory!
- J. M. Farro