A new fountain of youth has been discovered. The University of Copenhagen interviewed 10,000 men and women, aged 36 to 52 asking them how often they experienced “conflict” with partners, children, family and friends. Eleven years later they checked back with those people and found that the frequent fighters were two to three times more likely to be dead already. Apparently arguing less could save your life!
The Bible teaches that Christians should be filled with peace. Romans 8:6 says, “The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (I have occasionally mentioned to God that Romans 8:6 was written before cars and the Dallas North Tollway had been invented.) Nevertheless, peace has always been a characteristic of a person who was Spirit-led.
The study taught that people who argue a lot die sooner, so we would be smart to keep that in mind. The Contemporary English Version of Proverbs 14:29 says, “It’s smart to be patient, but it’s stupid to lose your temper.” King Solomon could have saved the University of Copenhagen a lot of research dollars. I think it is interesting that so much time and money was spent to “discover” what God’s word has been saying all along!
Still, there are times when we are not going to get along with a person or a person’s choices. What should we do if we don’t want to argue? Once again, King Solomon to the rescue! Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I can think of a number of times when I should have prayed first and then prayed again – before I spoke! Maybe if I had prayed the third time I wouldn’t have felt the need to speak up at all. Sometimes people just need grace. (Especially women around the age of fifty or anyone around the age of thirteen!)
When should we argue and when should we stay silent? Jesus didn’t mince any words when he called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” and he wasn’t very docile when he overthrew the tables of the money changers in the temple. There are times when we need to take action. Most of us in ministry have made people angry at some point. Jim and I speak out on certain issues in the news and in the culture and some of the comments we receive are definitely intended to provoke us!
I don’t mind a rational argument that exists to make a point or take a stand, even if I don’t agree with the other person’s thinking. I can get pretty intense when a person of authority teaches or endorses an anti-biblical point of view. My Sunday school class knew well of my disdain for some of Oprah’s “personal truth.”
I like this quote by St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle: “There is a holy anger, excited by zeal, which moves us to reprove with warmth those whom our mildness failed to correct.” Every now and then we must carefully and prayerfully take up a discussion so that the truth of God’s word, his will and his ways can be heard. We don’t always seem to come out “victorious” but if God’s word has been spoken in love, we can be confident that his word “never returns void.” We aren’t accountable for how God’s word is received but we are accountable for how, if, and when his word is spoken. I’m afraid too many Christians choose to remain quiet when they feel outnumbered and doomed to fail. I agree with what Robert Schuller once said: “I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail than attempt to do nothing and succeed.”
Speaking up with God’s truth is not the same thing as arguing, unless we allow it to become an argument. We want to live longer, so arguing is not our goal. On the other hand, I want to live eternally blessed so I want to be obedient to the command from Scripture that says, “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). We can’t avoid confrontation if we are confronting people with God’s truth. But we should listen to Peter, who learned this lesson the hard way: “Do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:15-16).
I definitely think Christians should argue a lot less and hopefully, as a result, live longer. The bigger issue is not how long we live in this world. Our greater goal must be the people who will live forever because we were brave enough to lovingly confront them with God’s word. The truth about Jesus is an argument worth having!