Have you ever been mad at someone about religious beliefs? I have. And not too long ago actually!
Paul wrote two letters to his protege, Timothy, who was ministering in the midst of people who quarreled a lot about religious matters. Several times in the book of 2 Timothy, Paul instructed him about this issue. In 2 Timothy 1:7 Paul said that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control.” Paul told Timothy to tell those under his care to “charge them before God not to quarrel about words . . .” (2 Timothy 2:14). “Avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,” he said (2 Timothy 2:16). Later in chapter 2 God’s Word says, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23).
Does that mean then, that when your Catholic neighbor wants to talk about why it is appropriate to pray to Mary, should you just be silent and not even respond? No, for Paul continues at the end of chapter 2: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone . . . correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
Let them speak. Listen to those who want to argue or who disagree with our beliefs in God’s Word. Be kind to them. And then, don’t be silent. Correct them with gentleness. Say, “I understand what you’re saying, and while I respect it, that is not what God’s Word says . . .”
There’s no reason to become angry with someone who is not a follower of Jesus. In fact, we should have compassion on them! It says in 2 Timothy 2:26 that the reason we should be gentle with an opponent is because they have been “captured” by the devil to do his will! They may be speaking logically, but they don’t fully realize the error of their ways. Remember, we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, but against evil spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12ff).
In short, the goal of a follower of Jesus is not to win an argument, but to win a person. That means being kind and correcting error.