When public debate erupted over a controversial Singapore law, it divided believers with differing views. Some called others “narrow-minded” or accused them of compromising their faith.
Controversies can cause sharp divisions among God’s family, bringing much hurt and discouraging people. I’ve been made to feel small over personal convictions on how I apply the Bible’s teachings to my life. And I’m sure I’ve been equally guilty of criticizing others I disagree with.
I wonder if the problem lies not in what or even in how we express our views, but in the attitudes of our hearts when we do so. Are we just disagreeing with views or seeking to tear down the people behind them?
Yet there are times when we need to address false teaching or explain our stand. Ephesians 4:2–6 reminds us to do so with humility, gentleness, patience, and love. And, above all else, to make every effort “to keep the unity of the Spirit” (v. 3).
Some controversies will remain unresolved. God’s Word, however, reminds us that our goal should always be to build up people’s faith, not tear them down (v. 29). Are we putting others down to win an argument? Or are we allowing God to help us understand His truths in His time and His way, remembering that we share one faith in one Lord? (vv. 4–6).
When Paul urges his readers to be gentle and patient with one another, he describes what real strength looks like. Earlier in the same letter he repeatedly expresses his prayer that his readers would join him in understanding the ability of God to strengthen them in their inner being with the love of Christ (Ephesians 1:19; 3:16–18). He prays they will be given the power to understand the heart of God who wants to do for them more than they could ever ask or think (3:20).
The old Paul wouldn’t have written this. Before meeting Christ on the road to Damascus, he was doing everything he could to bully and terrorize those with whom he disagreed. It’s a dramatically changed Paul who calls for the strength of a humility, patience, and kindness that brings out the best in us rather than the worst.