Wordplay II

Preface: this is long.

So after I wrote the original Wordplay post, I went to small group where we talked about 1 Timothy. In 1 Timothy, Paul again talks about the power of words and pointless talk.

At the very end of the book, Paul gives Timothy an urgent command. “O Timothy, protect what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the profane chatter and absurdities  of so-called ‘knowledge.’  By professing it, some have strayed from the faith.”  (1 Tim 6:20-21a)

What is this so-called knowledge? It is the claims certain “Christian” bodies assert. Let’s look at Westboro Baptist Church in Texas, for example. This church is probably best known for their “God hates fags” campaign and their picketing at military funerals, since God hates them too. Is this Biblically accurate? No. Yes, God does despise homosexuality, as it is sinful and therefore abhorred by God (as is every other sin), but in no way does that make God a hater of man. Humans, even members of Westboro Baptist Church, sin in their own way everyday–what makes their sin any different?

Another source that is becoming very popular is Rev. Rob Bell. Rob Bell, creator of NOOMA and the recent hit, Love Wins. Here’s the gist: Hell is what we create for ourselves when we reject God’s love. Hell is both a present reality for those who resist God and a future reality for those who die unready for God’s love. Hell is what we make of heaven when we cannot accept the good news of God’s forgiveness and mercy. But hell is not forever. God will have his way. How can his good purposes fail? Every sinner will turn to God and realize he has already been reconciled to God, in this life or in the next. There will be no eternal conscious torment. God says no to injustice in the age to come, but he does not pour out wrath (we bring the temporary suffering upon ourselves), and he certainly does not punish for eternity. In the end, love wins.

As a Scripture-reading Christian, I cannot believe that. Hebrews 9:27 explains that everyone has only one life in which their destiny is determined. Matthew 25:46 talks about the eternity of Hell. And of course, John 14:6 clearly states how one gets to heaven. So, even though Gandhi was a great man, I cannot be led to believe that (unless he silently accepted Christ on the deathbed) is in heaven, contrary to what Bell would have you believe.

These are things that are important. These are things Christians should debate. There are other things Christians debate, however, that are what Paul calls the wrangling with words in 2 Timothy 2:14.

Put these in order of importance to salvation:

-Sprinkling or dunking
-Observing Ash Wednesday
-Reciting the Nicene Creed

If you can’t, that’s because they don’t affect your salvation, or anyone else’s. Nor do they edify one’s faith in Christ by knowing his nature more thoroughly. Why then, if they have no importance in the life and ministry of a Christian, are they argued over as if they were the difference in heaven and hell?
If an argument has potential to weaken your faith, STOP. If it doesn’t weaken your faith, it still has potential to weaken the faith of those around you. It is senseless. It is stupid.

Lastly, is the purpose of your discussion to show and convey your love for Christ, or is it to show and convey your ego?

This is a struggle I continue to have, as I love to show off just how much I (think I) know about God and His Word. Yet, I am beginning to understand that this is becoming one of the biggest dampers on any type of ministry I could hope God would use me for. Evaluate yourself. Are you so focused on winning a trivial bout with a fellow Christian that you refuse to look away in order to allow God to use you to exemplify His love to the rest of the world?

Wordplay

Nary a day goes by that I don’t attempt to engage in debate. It’s one of my favorite past times. I have learned to gain an opinion on just about everything I can just for the sake of debate.

Yet, I have found that I have no reason for debate. The main reason I debate is to show off my skills, my knowledge, my arrogance. This is not how we are instructed to engage with one another.

Is God omnipotent? Is He outside of time? What does it mean to be the Trinity? Are we predestined, or do we have free will? Or, does this even matter?

To some extent, it is important to debate with one another in order to exchange ideas with each other and tackle difficult concepts, such as the Love vs. Wrath of God. But there is a very fine line between debating the content of God’s character and debating words.

In 2 Timothy, Paul gives stern warning against such talk. In verse 2:14, he says,

” Remind people  of these things and solemnly charge them before the Lord not to wrangle over words. This is of no benefit; it just brings ruin on those who listen. 2:15 Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately.”

Wordplay causes ruin among people, especially a church. When debate causes division, is it really worth it? Paul argues no. Teachers are to teach; they are to engage those who are confused with love, not with wrath or pride. In this way, God may grant those who have been led astray repentance and escape from the Enemy’s grasp. (2:23-26)

Remember who you are in Christ. You–we– are not made to be an arrogant, knowledgeable, skillful  debater who can tear down an opponent in .72 seconds. Rather, we are to be lovers of God’s people, loving them as Christ loved us. Defeating an opponent out of pride is the work of the Enemy; we are instructed, rather, to lovingly steer our brother back towards Christ.

Proverbs 8:21 reminds us that the power of life and death rests in the tongue. In our words. In what we say to each other. Pride in our words leads to (spiritual) death: slavery to Satan. We ourselves must avoid this death, and we must, at all costs, not be proponents for the death of others.

Bottom line is, debate for the sake of debate is about as useful as wisdom teeth: it’s painful, unnecessary, and is in no way wise to keep.