And the servant of the Lord must not quarrel
but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient.
- 2 Timothy 2:24
In putting together our weekly email newsletter, I came across this passage. The devotion used in the newsletter focused on making sure we are not quarrelsome. Our motivation for arguing, even if we think we are arguing on God's behalf, is usually more self-focused than God-focused, and any argument we might get involved in will only detract from our Christian witness.
We will never win anyone to Jesus by arguing with them. You reflect a Christlike character by demonstrating patience to those who mistreat you or don't agree with you.
But on reflecting on that passage, there is a lot more to it. Not only do we need to abstain from quarrels, but we must also "be gentle to all, able to teach, and patient."
Being gentle to all can mean a couple of different things. Related to the first part of the verse, being gentle can mean not to argue. But it also carries a little more to it. The dictionary defines gentle as being mild in temperament or behavior. It means we don't get upset, at least not that others can see. So we need to be in control of our emotions, not letting anybody trigger any negative reactions from us. Back to the dictionary, one of the synonyms for gentle was tender. We are to be tender people, always caring about others, always looking to help in a tender manner. Another synonym was meek, and we remember that the meek are especially blessed, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 6:15).
We are also to be "able to teach." Many times we might argue with someone in an effort to try to teach them. But certainly that's not a very effective teaching strategy. So I think that Paul might suggest to alternatives. First, know God's Word well enough to let it do the talking. Quote from Scripture, or at least tell the gist of what a passage says if you can't remember it word for word (but make sure you get it right!). God's Word is a two edged sword (Rev. 1:16). In fact, it's the only offensive weapon we have in our armor of God (Eph. 6:11-17). Just don't use it offensively! Remember to be gentle to all at the same time.
I'm also reminded of Peter's charge to always be prepared with an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have (1 Peter 3:15). That is way of teaching someone, and sharing your faith with them, in a way that shouldn't ever lead to an argument. Our faith fills us with hope, because we know Jesus, the prince of peace. We know that the Holy Spirit is with us, leading and guiding us. And while troubles may come, we know the Lord will bring us through, so we can praise Him even in the midst of our troubles. That brings a peace others just can't know.
Finally, the verse tells us to be patient. That's a hard one, isn't it. But if we know that the Holy Spirit is always with us, leading and guiding us, and that the Lord really will bring us safely out of our troubles, and we really do praise Him even in our sufferings, then we need not worry about anything, because we know that we are the Lord's. We can turn over all troubles to Jesus, and rest secure in the knowledge that in all things, we are His. With that knowledge secure, we can be patient. Understanding that God is in control. Even when behind a slow motorist. Even when someone is taking forever in the shopping line. Even when talking to someone who won't end the conversation even if we're in a hurry.
If you struggle with patience, Proverbs tells us "a man's wisdom gives him patience" (Proverbs 19:11). And since wisdom comes from God (Prov 2:6), we can pray for wisdom, and work on growing closer to God. The wisest men I've know have all had the closest walks with the Lord.
Paul gave Timothy a lot to think about with this verse. Don't quarrel, be gentle, able to teach, and patient...