Most of us will agree that conflict is hard to avoid. But in the past year or two, the stresses of the pandemic have seemed to increase the number of arguments we are having. Fights are breaking out in airplanes, schools, grocery stores, and workplaces. Even families are reporting an increase in conflict, a result of spending so much time together.
In today’s reading, Paul calls believers: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing” (v. 14). While sometimes our grumbling is directed at God, in this case, Paul is talking about problems between believers. Sometimes the grumbling is focused on tensions with one another, like the time when the Hellenistic believers in the Jerusalem church complained against the Hebraic believers because their widows were overlooked in the daily distribution of food (Acts 6:1).
Paul also warns about the danger of arguing. Although the Greek word is the one from which we get the word dialogue, a reasonable discussion is not what concerned Paul. He is talking about pointless debates and hostile arguments. Paul is not saying that Christians can never disagree or talk about their differences. He is concerned with how we disagree. Because members of the church are connected in Christ, we handle our disagreements differently from society. God’s grace makes a difference.
Sadly, this is not always the case. That’s why Paul issues the command. In this age of argumentation, when we often advertise our differences on social media, Christians often do not sound much different from those Paul describes as “a warped and crooked generation” (v. 15). We may not be able to keep from differing with one another, but we can be careful about how we handle disagreements.
>> Has the argumentative atmosphere of social media influenced the way you express your differences with others? The key to doing everything without grumbling or arguing is to consider the interests of others (Phil. 2:4).
Often, different opinions abound in the body of Christ. Teach us to love the truth and to love one another. Help us discuss our differences with humility and sincerity, knowing that You are the source of truth.