Dealing with Controversy
by Gabe Fluhrer
We are surrounded by controversy. Whether we turn on our televisions, scroll through our news feeds, or log on to our favorite social media platform, it doesn’t take long for conflict to find us. If there is one thing that will make Christians stand out from the world around us, it will be how we handle controversy.
There is a time and place for controversy. The New Testament teems with instruction regarding the defense of the faith. Yet, Paul teaches us how to handle the wrong kind of controversy in Titus 3:9: “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” In context, Paul is rebutting false teachers who were more enthralled with someone’s lineage than with the Messiah those genealogies pointed to. The same spirit is alive and well among us today. We encounter it at work, at home, and perhaps most especially at church. We meet the spirit of foolish controversy every day in the mirror.
Where do we see foolish controversies today? Think of the protracted and often endless debates on Facebook or Twitter. More often than not, these debates center on political and religious themes. The adversaries square off over keyboards illumined by the blue glow of a screen promising anonymity, each side prepared for battle, both convinced he can win the other to his side. A meme I saw not too long ago captured this folly perfectly: “Boy, that Facebook debate really changed my mind. Said no one ever.”
Whether it’s on social media or in social settings such as work or family gatherings, sin deceives us into thinking we are detached, cool, and surgical in our reasoning. In our self-deception, we are confident that our opinions are not only worthy to be published and admired, but also that riots are sure to follow if we don’t pound out our take on the latest bit of news. However, the truth of the matter is that few people care what we think, most of us don’t reason in a cool and dispassionate manner, and we can’t change anyone’s mind by force of logic alone.
So what’s the solution? Christlikeness. Christ was a master controversialist. He never got entangled in the wrong debates. He kept the main thing—the focus on Him and His mission—the main thing. He reasoned tirelessly and patiently with those who were like sheep without a shepherd (Luke 10:25–37) while devastating the arguments of the false shepherds who were leading them astray (Matt. 22:23–33).
We are called to the same thing. To avoid foolish controversies, we need to dwell with Jesus as we dwell on Jesus. The more we’re with Him, the more the Spirit will make us like Him. Something beautiful will begin to take shape: we will become wise, as the Proverbs hold out to us (Prov. 2:1–15). Jesus is wisdom in the flesh (Col. 2:3), and He delights to make us gracious, wise people.