I tend to yell at the TV a lot, especially when the news is on. My loud voice upsets my wife, who says she worries I’ll have a stroke or heart attack. I’m not an intolerant person. I understand everyone has his own point of view. But sometimes I can’t help being outraged by the lack of maturity, morality and objectivity in TV journalism today. The vacuous and insulting content of what is called news today deeply offends me. So, reflexively, I cry out against this unjust assault on critical thinking. I’m not looking to quarrel, but opening my mouth seems to get me into trouble.
Today my wife emailed me a scripture from her calendar at work:
The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with Gentleness
correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps god may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth — 2 Timothy 2:24-25 (NASB)
That first phrase stood out for me: “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, …”
Quarrelsome describes someone prone to angry disputes. Disputes are to be dignified, respectful and even loving. Anger, itself, is not a sin (Ephesians 4:26). But when a dispute is conducted in anger, it becomes quarreling.
The difficulty comes when we feel deeply wronged or threatened. Crying out in pain is a natural response when we are hurt. If we are outraged by the sheer injustice of an attack, and then criticized for crying out, we are twice offended. Shylock’s famous line, from the Merchant of Venice comes to mind:
I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes?
hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions,
senses, affections, passions?
fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons,
subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is?
If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh?
if you poison us, do we not die?
and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?
If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.
If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge.
If a Christian wrong a Jew,
what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge.
The villany you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard
but I will better the instruction.
Like Shylock, we use our pain to justify our outrage. It seems to me that this kind of a response is to be expected, and only becomes “wrong” (as in quarreling) if we remain in that frame of mind, handing over control to our anger. But I don’t think occasional angry responses, which most of us experience, are the same as being quarrelsome. Being quarrelsome is a habit, a typical behavior, a characteristic trait.
The possibility of being quarrelsome is primarily dependent upon the type of person with whom we associate. If our associates are wild and crazy, we also will likely be wild and crazy. If our associates are sober and mature, then we too will probably be sober and mature. The problem arises when we are confronted by fools. I imagine the best advice is to avoid fools. Then you won’t have to worry about how to act or what to say. But sometimes, even under the best of circumstances, there’s no “right” way to act around fools.
Pro 26:4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.
Pro 26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.
Both proverbs have their points. I’m just not sure they will keep me from getting dangerously close to the edge of quarrelsomeness.
But the thrust of 2 Timothy 2:24-25 is in the characteristics, attitudes and behaviors it teaches:
…but be kind to all,
able to teach,
patient when wronged,
with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition,
if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth …
The point here is that even “disputes” can be good and productive, if we employ kindness. But things like kindness, gentleness and teaching imply an established rapport between individuals who are communicating in a decent, respectful, sensitive way. It seems like this is very rare any more, except in formal settings. So many fools nowadays just rush into arguments in public forums and seek to immediately put down their foes. They are being quarrelsome. As my wife says, it is so hard to be kind, patient and gentle to people when they aren’t being that way to you. You gotta know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em. Maybe next time I should just turn off the stupid TV.