“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?”
I’ve been writing lately about the downward spiral into acrimony that seems to stand out on social media and in a variety of news feeds. My purpose is to identify some of the obvious causes, suggest some of the less obvious causes and propose the Biblical model of thought and conduct as the remedy. I’m not certain yet when, how or where this material will be published. But I’m getting a lot of my thoughts recorded, which I hope will be of value to those who read it.
I will likely not put the word “acrimony” in the title. It isn’t a common word in our daily vernacular. I may borrow from James: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you,” (Jas. 4:1).
Acrimony is “anger and bitterness: harsh or biting sharpness especially of words, manner or feelings.”
As I was reading up on this rather broad subject, I ran across these observations by a preacher who has long passed to his reward. I’m going to share that with you today.
Editor’s Note: The following article is excerpted from Book, Chapter & Verse, an about-to-be-published book of sermons of the late Floyd Thompson of California. His widow, Ruth Thompson, a frequent contributor to this magazine, has spent several years preparing a book of some 34 full-length sermons as well as other material. It will be well worth securing. She may be reached at 429 Eastside Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92701.
I have said many times that I think I have seen demonstrated in the lives of some people, that their idea of being sound in the faith was to be insulting and obnoxious. I don’t believe that. I think a person can be amiable, and at the same time not compromise an inch insofar as the teaching of God’s word is concerned. There is where the fight ought to be made. I just cannot imagine the apostle Paul getting up in the presence of any audience and feeling that he had to insult them to prove his soundness. Now, if his stating a truth brought the wrath of the whole crowd down upon him, he would have stated the truth, and then said, “Am I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?”
The thing that I am saying is this: There is a warfare going on and we must be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Our work consists of more than fighting: we are to be sheep, teachers, many other things that we are to perform. But there are some people, I am afraid, that have actually never recognized the fact that there is a portion of time in our lives when we will have to be involved in a fight. Some people detest that; they had rather someone have his way, even if a false doctrine is being taught, than to have a fight. They think that fighting is the worst thing in the world, they think we can never, never, never get anything accomplished by fighting. If a situation comes about where fighting becomes necessary, and you tuck tail and run, you need not call yourself a Christian. That’s not what you are. I can give you a one-word description of what you care; it begins with a “C” also, but it’s not Christian.
There is part of our lives that needs to be given over to the defense of truth. When it comes, you’ve got to fight. We are soldiers. God gave us an armor for that purpose. There is no use at all to put on armor, if what you are going to do is retreat. Just serves no purpose at all. There is a time to be as gentle as a nurse with a child, a time to be long-suffering, but there is also a time when we ought to learn to fight.
I want to read these two verses of Scripture, Judges 3:1–2, in harmony with what I have just said about our knowing how to fight, and the responsibility that is laid upon us as soldiers of Jesus Christ. Consider this carefully: “Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan; only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof.” Now, that wasn’t put there accidentally. Do you see what that says? When God brought His people out of Egyptian bondage, and conquered the Canaanites, it would have been just as easy for them to have cleaned out the whole land and possessed it. But God had a purpose for leaving some of the heathen in the land. In times to come, when these children grew to manhood, and were threatened by raiding armies, they would not have had any experience in fighting. They could have been easily taken. They needed to learn to fight. They could not have protected their homes, nor retained possession of their inheritance.
I think there is a great lesson in this example. I know our warfare is not carnal, but we have a spiritual warfare that we must be prepared for. Paul says, “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty before God to the pulling down of strongholds:) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:4–5.
How can we make a stand against the things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God unless we have on the armor of God, and are willing to stand and fight?
If a member of the church feels that all the debating is over, all the battles have been won, all the discussions have ceased, all the false teachers have been brought to an end, and there will never be any problems or difficulties come up regarding teaching, they simply need to restudy the admonitions given by the Lord about our need to stand for the truth, and fight error.
Paul said to Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses,” 1 Timothy 6:12. I do not think that fighting is the whole of one’s life as a Christian. Some people think they are supposed to get up fighting and go to bed fighting, and dream about fighting while they sleep. It is not a fight all the time, but when the situation demands it, and when there is time for a contest, don’t you run. You be there. If nothing else, you can hand ammunition to somebody who is able to throw it like you ought to throw it. But don’t run! Stand there. There is a fight going on, and there will be a fight going on between the forces of truth and the forces of false doctrine, righteousness and unrighteousness, right and wrong, and it’s going on today. It was going on yesterday. And it will be going on tomorrow.