The Beth Moore’s women’s bible study group I’m in just continues to give and give – there is so much to be said for when you seek wisdom, and put yourself in a place where you’re likely to receive it, you will chase it as it unravels like a rolling yarn ball. A few weeks ago, we studied the verse 1 Thessalonians 4:11
Seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.
I’m sure we’ve all seen why this verse is important, we may have just not connected the dots (or even knew that such verse in Scripture existed). But hands down, it is off-putting to see any person, but especially a “Christian” going against this verse in their social interactions with others. I’ve been terribly guilty of this before, out of sheer ignorance that it was really wrong for me to be debating issues with a persuasive agenda in mind (what other agenda is there when it comes from a debate? None).
Definition of Debate — 1) a formal discussion on a particular topic in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward; 2) argue about (a subject), especially in a formal manner
Synonyms: discussion, discourse, parley, argument, conterargument, dispute, wrangle, war of words, argumentation, disputation, dissension, disagreement, contention, conflict, negotiations, talks
There were times 2-3 years ago, that I thought I needed to debate against Catholicism, because I honestly wanted to help those dutiful believers under that religion that strays so much from biblical truth, to see how wrong some of their doctrines truly were. There are times when debate may be necessary in cases like that, even in pointing out false or unfounded doctrine; however, the way I was personally going about this “mission” was terribly misguided and ended up hurting many people, possibly even pushing people away from what I was trying to get them to look at.
I wasn’t exactly rude (except if you count in a very pushy, arrogant way! Ie. sometimes debating itself is rude in certain circumstances), but I was too wrapped up in the debate itself to care about the effects it would have on my personal relationships with the very people I proclaimed to “care about.”
Just like how we are not supposed to argue about extra-biblical preferences or opinions such as “Should Christians Participate in Halloween?” or “Should Christians Have Christmas Trees Since They Were Used By Pagans?” I also feel that we should be extremely cautious in treading on the ground of where another believer feels personally convicted, as per all of Romans 14, where we are constantly reminded “not to argue” about personal convictions (even over controversial topics).
This is not to say that argument or debate has no place, but merely when it comes to certain topics that aren’t pertaining to a person’s salvation or biblical truths. We are called to accept other people who may be “weak in faith” or may simply have differing opinions from us. When I looked at the Greek meanings and footnotes of great authors on this chapter,
I found at the same time that we are called to accept them, we are also warned repeatedly, to not try to “persuade” them using examples or “debate,” that to accept their opinions and personal convictions was exactly that. To just accept. To try to even persuade them was sinning. We are free in having our personal convictions over many many non-essential topics, however we are most certainly NOT free to debate them as we see fit.
Why don’t we have the freedom to just debate over anything? It seems clear that Paul is talking about Christians debating other Christians – there are already both saved – and debates over such trivial things can have potential to be extremely divisive at times.
We are called to pursue peace and unity within the body… having debates over non-essential issues often do more harm to keeping “unity” than they do to flourish believers’ relationships with each other.
Romans 14 goes on to include the word “criticizing.” When we try to persuade others from their convictions, we are in effect criticizing their current beliefs, in my opinion, the very root of it is a very prideful thing in which we are automatically assuming that we understand something better than them, and that’s why we feel a certain desire (or enjoyment from) debating on an issue. The reality is maybe we DO understand something “better than them,” maybe our faith truly IS a little stronger so that we understand that we have more freedom to feel a certain way on a topic – however, that is why this chapter is in defense of those who have a “weaker faith.” It is their faith at stake then, not ours, and we should be very guarded and cautious in what we choose to debate about in effort to help them grow (on their own) in their faith.
It might be enjoyable for the person who is acting in pride in thinking their debate and personal opinion is important to hear, but it is most definitely NOT enjoyable for the other party involved, who ends up feeling judged because this fellow Christian is not able to merely accept that they have a different opinion or different conviction.
The 3 main things Beth Moore was pointing out in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 were to:
1) Seek to live a quiet life
2) To mind your own business
3) To work with your own hands
These all fit in line with following Romans 14, seeking to live a quiet life requires one to be responsible – to argue and debate only when it is truly called for and needed. This is for a very important reason and greater mission we should be aware of… Beth points out in the next verse (vs 12) that the 2 reasons Paul wanted us to focus on these 3 things in life were:
1) So that we may win the respect of outsiders, and walk properly in their presence
2) To not be dependent (financially or emotionally) on anyone – being a burden unnecessarily
People are actively watching what we do as a Christian… all the time. Even if you think you live a responsible public life, we are also called to have greater integrity in also living a responsible private life in our own homes, otherwise, the reputation of Christ is still at stake!
I recently had a very strange experience with friend who wanted to constantly debate in public over my own personal convictions – to the point where the arguments were lasting for days, other people were taking note, picking sides, and generally getting the wrong idea of what the initial topic was supposed to be about. It was causing some believers to feel justified in judging certain types of people, and also affecting non-Christians who were more than likely feeling judged by seeing the argument play out in the wide open environment of social media. Nothing good seemed to be coming from it at all, never-mind the multiple miscommunications due to it being over social media and not in person, or in private. This is not to say that we don’t have to freedom to post or have our own personal opinions, but choosing to publically debate over them (or even privately at times) is not always the best idea.
We carry the reputation of Christ, and we truly need to be careful in what we choose to publically debate about because of Paul’s warning that we need to “win the respect of outsiders.” To think that it doesn’t matter what other people think, or how something may look to others (even online), Beth points out, is an irresponsible Christian ethic. I have already been through this lesson many times before, and I’ve definitely had negative consequences when I reveled in my freedom to debate whatever I wanted.
Beth talked about how we can lose our perspective, make certain issues more important than maintaining healthy relationships, or lose sight of the goal of unity between believers in effort to debate our point or opinions.
Literally, some hills are just not worth dying on… and we should hold ourselves responsible for carrying the reputation of Christ.
Hope this encourages you as much as it enlightened & reminded me of those commands! Here’s to living peaceably, a quiet life, minding my own business, and keeping perspective when it comes to debating.