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Win The Argument Or Win The Person?

In category:

Men Hugging

Most of us have strong opinions about “how things ought to be!” When life arranges itself according to our understanding of what is good and proper it gives us a feeling of security and well-being. We like it when our jobs are going smoothly, we have no money worries, our families are in good health, the weather is clement and the politicians are making decisions which benefit us. The problem is that not everyone agrees with our ideas of how things should be!

The truth is that we don’t all like the same things. One person considers a certain house charming and a delight to live in while someone else thinks it looks hideous and is poorly designed. Some people enjoy the rain while others become depressed when the sun isn’t shining. Some delight in the quiet countryside while others feel ill-at-ease away from the frenzied concrete jungle of the city. Some like their food heavily spiced while others prefer it bland.

We can easily make allowances for such differences. They are even sources of amusement among friends – they are one of the things which make other people interesting and enjoyable. But it is not so easy to make allowances regarding convictions, ethics and morals. When we believe that something is right or wrong we expect other people to agree with us. We not only expect them to agree, we think that they should live by the same standards as we do. Unfortunately, this often leads to conflict.

Not every issue is worth arguing about. In matters of personal opinion it is often best to “live and let live.” In other words, we can agree that while certain beliefs or practices violate our own sense of what is good and appropriate they are acceptable for others. We can leave room for the other person’s conscience – just as we hope that he will not try to force his views on us.

However, there are many issues which go far beyond personal preferences. When principles and standards are clearly stated in God’s Word we are obligated to accept and obey them regardless of our own desires. We also have an obligation to teach these principles and standards to others and encourage others to comply with them. It is how we confront people who are violating God’s Word which reveals our own true nature.

In the church at the city of Ephesus some people began to teach false doctrine. The situation was especially serious because these false teachers came from among the leadership of the church. The Apostle Paul gave a young man by the name of Timothy the task of stopping these men and restoring the church to spiritual health. It is interesting to note that though returning the church to a correct theological understanding was extremely important, this was not the Apostle Paul’s main concern. He wrote to Timothy, “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:3-5 NIV)

To put it another way, the purpose of encouraging people to believe and do the right things is to develop greater love. If love is not our goal when confronting others about their wrong beliefs then we have not understood God’s purpose. We are in error if our theology is correct but we do not love, just as those whose with incorrect beliefs are in error.

This raises an important question each of us needs to ask ourselves when we confront others: What are we trying to accomplish? Are we trying to win the argument, or are we trying to win the person? Have we really accomplished anything if we prove our point yet alienate the very person to whom we are trying to show the truth?