In a world where sending a message around the world takes an instant, people increasingly have trouble communicating. Indeed, if the Internet has contributed anything in the realm of communication, it would fall in the realm of fomenting arguments and furthering misunderstandings. It has taken tremendous personal self-control to learn that not every statement on Facebook warrants a reply and not every tweet should start a Twitter war—no matter how wrong the other person may be. The comments sections on websites run the gamut from vitriolic hatred to complete vulgarity. All of this leads me to a simple conclusion: we live in a world that likes to argue—including about a lot of meaningless stuff. Unfortunately, many Christians have accepted this template and just incorporated it into religious arguments. Thus, we find the spiritual provocateur challenging the sensibilities of the easily offended, the overly zealous getting in the face of the overly traditional, and millennials complaining about baby boomers (and vice versa). It is a good thing we all believe in unity!
This problem—and yes, it is a problem—reminds me of when Job’s friends decided to set him straight. Job had been wrestling with the issue of suffering for much longer than his friends, yet after a week of sympathetic silence, upon hearing Job’s complaint, Eliphaz immediately blamed Job for all of his problems. In Job’s reply to this attack, he said in part, “Teach me, and I will hold my tongue; Cause me to understand wherein I have erred. How forceful are right words! But what does your arguing prove?” (Job 6:24-25). Neither Job nor Eliphaz had the answer to the problem. The difference is that Job knew it. Eliphaz had spoken without sufficient thought and consideration of the facts. He assumed he understood the problem when in actuality he understood very little. Sadly, I see this played out in various forms online regularly.
Forceful words matter in writing. I appreciate that. Good writing attempts to create interest and offers persuasion succinctly and powerfully. However, as Job pointed out, taking a strong position on any subject is far different from making a strong argument. Moreover, we have the responsibility to evaluate what positions deserve importance. In some cases it sounds like people are more interested in taking a stand for some offbeat, new-fangled idea than they are in producing something meaty and meaningful. I have a definite position about head coverings (1 Cor. 11:2-16), but that does not mean I should write a blog entitled “Hair, Hats, and Doilies.” It would be disrespectful and, as such, completely unpersuasive. I may hold some non-traditional, but scriptural positions that would curl the hair of the flattop crowd, but I also understand the difference in standing against sin and trying to get someone to adopt my non-fellowship-issue position. Then again, many might view me as extremely conservative in what I believe and practice. Yes, I am an enigma. What this has taught me, however, is the importance of focusing on the scriptures themselves and on the God who wrote them so that the perspective I adopt is an eternal one.
Eliphaz spoke boldly enough, but emboldened ignorance proves nothing. It only creates frustration for all and heightens the possibility of unnecessary division. Enough division will exist due to the nature of truth; we do not need to help it along. What we do need is to show patience toward one another, dedicate ourselves to a thorough knowledge of the scriptures before speaking out, and love one another enough to express it in our tone. What does arguing prove? In many cases, it proves that we need to work on our spiritual growth a lot more than we do.