Most people have heard of "The Dark Ages" or "The Age of Enlightenment", but if I were to name our current time period, I would have to call it "The Age of Contentiousness". Never have I witnessed so many people going after others on issues whether it is politics or the movies we have decided to watch. Whatever happened to "civil discourse" or "agreeing to disagree" in a manner that does not cause verbal attacks? Not only is this happening in the realm of political discussions but also amongst Christians. Unfortunately people are more concerned about their opinions and being right than about their relationships. I know someone will say, "But shouldn't I stand up for what I believe?" My answer is "of course" as long as it can be done in a manner that doesn't damage a friendship.
Mickey Evans, a fine pastor who started Dunklin Memorial Camp near Brighton, FL and has since gone home to be with the Lord, clearly stated, "It is better to be righteous than right." I loved that phrase and its implications. Sometimes wisdom dictates the necessity of acting in a manner that brings peace rather than argumentation. We may be right about something, but in proving our point, are we hurting others?
Jesus taught us in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." Matthew Henry in his commentary says: "The peace-makers are happy. They love, and desire, and delight in peace; and study to be quiet. They keep the peace that it be not broken, and recover it when it is broken. If the peace-makers are blessed, woe to the peace-breakers!" (Biblehub.com, Matthew 5:9). Amen to that! We bring glory to God when we act as peacemakers rather than stirring up an argument. There is always a time and place to take a stand even as Martin Luther did. However, we have to remember that Luther started out just posting a series of questions for the purpose of discussion. He did not start out to cause a split in the church but to bring about some reforms.
When I was a child, we did not have the internet or Facebook. This resulted in communicating face to face or by telephone (which was not mobile or "smart"). Maybe this is the difference today. Social media can be a wonderful tool to reach out to people across the distance. I love my Facebook account because I can communicate with former classmates, my family and friends. However, there are times when it can be ugly to be online. When I am tempted to reply with a sassy attitude, I step back and think: will this edify this person, glorify God, and further the cause of Christ if I say what I want to say? There is a time for truth but can I say it in love without damaging a brother or sister?
In his letter to the Romans 12:18, the Apostle Paul writes: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." Once again, Matthew Henry in his commentary states: "Since men became enemies to God, they have been very ready to be enemies one to another. And those that embrace religion, must expect to meet with enemies in a world whose smiles seldom agree with Christ's. Recompense to no man evil for evil. That is a brutish recompence, befitting only animals, which are not conscious of any being above them, or of any existence hereafter. And not only do, but study and take care to do, that which is amiable and creditable, and recommends religion to all with whom you converse. Study the things that make for peace; if it be possible, without offending God and wounding conscience. Avenge not yourselves" (biblehub.com, Romans 12:18). Only God can change a heart. We cannot. Neither are we called to judge one another, but instead, we are called to demonstrate love.
If we truly wish to end this "age of contentiousness" then it must begin with us. We need to think before we speak, post on Facebook, hit send on an email or take action. We also must pray for those with whom we disagree and remember that we have been forgiven much by God; therefore, we have no place to put others down. My mother used to remind me almost every day: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all". Thanks to the movie Bambi and the little rabbit Thumper for those wise words! Let us be peacemakers not peace breakers, and let it begin with us