by Lois Tverberg
“And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must
be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those
who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope
that God will grant them repentance leading them to
a knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 2:24-25
When we have something to share with the world, how should we share it? It is easy when you are passionate about something, especially about God’s word, to use strong, angry words to shake up your audience. Especially if you disagree with other opinions, it is easy to want to denounce those who are so foolish to disagree with you.
There is an excellent saying from around Jesus’ time that relates to this issue, which says: “The hot-tempered person cannot teach.” (Pirke Avot 2:5) Aimed at those who teach the Scriptures, it was a warning that once a communicator loses his temper, he loses his ability to communicate. A related saying can also help us: “Anyone who allows himself to become angry – if he is wise, he loses all his wisdom” (Talmud, Pesachim 66b).
We can learn from this about the damage that occurs when we let anger affect the way we think and communicate. First, when we are angry we often leap to assumptions, especially about the people we are trying to reach. The street-corner preacher who shouts at his audience about their wicked lifestyles has made an accusation that justifiably offends people. He presumes the worst, accusing his listeners of things he doesn’t know, and he loses his ability to reach them.
In the same way, accusing the church of anti-Semitism for not teaching about Jesus in his Jewish context also makes assumptions about people’s motivations that we have no right to make. Just because we’ve grown in understanding shouldn’t make us prideful. Instead, we should be the most humble, knowing that we have had to change our minds about the things we used to sincerely believe ourselves.
Whether we are trying to share the gospel with a non-believer or our knowledge about our Jewish roots to our pastor, we need to remember to guard against an argumentative attitude or anger. Knowing that others have walked different paths but are trying, as we are, to discern the truth, we should always answer “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