How to Avoid Arguments, Deal with Disputes and Stop Fighting Day

The Bible In One Year

Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq.  Wars, terrorism, strikes, murders, divorce, splits in the church.  Open the newspapers any day and practically every page will include stories of arguments, disputes and fighting.When sin entered the world arguments, disputes and fighting began.  Adam blamed Eve.  Cain murdered his brother.  The history of the world ever since has been one of conflict of all kinds.

When people turn away from God, they start fighting one another.  We see the breakdown of relationships wherever we look: broken marriages, broken homes, broken relationships at work, civil wars and wars between nations.  Sadly, the church is not immune.  Right from the start there have been arguments, disputes and in-fighting.

How do we avoid arguments?  How do we deal with disputes?  How do we stop fierce fighting?

1.  How to avoid arguments

Proverbs 18:17-19:2As always, Proverbs is full of practical advice.

  • Listen to both sides
    There are usually two sides to an argument, and it is always worth hearing both parties.  The right of cross examination is an important one, with a vital place in any legal system.  ‘The first speech in a court case is always convincing – until the cross-examination starts!’ (v.17, MSG).
  • Ask for the help of the Holy Spirit
    We need God’s guidance especially when facing ‘tough decisions’ (v.18, MSG).  In the Old Testament, ‘casting the lot’ was a way of settling disputes.  However, with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit there are better ways of receiving God’s guidance over disputes (see 1 Corinthians 6:1–6).
  • Avoid unnecessary offence
    We need to do everything we possibly can to avoid offending our brothers and sisters.  ‘An offended relative is more unyielding than a fortified city’ (Proverbs 18:19).  Serious disputes create barriers among friends.  These walls are easy to erect and extremely hard to pull down.
  • Choose your words carefully
    We need to be very careful in what we say.  Our words can bring great satisfaction and heal division: ‘Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest’ (v.20, MSG).

Yet words can also bring destruction: ‘Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose’ (v.21, MSG).  As Joyce Meyer writes, the words we speak ‘carry either a life-giving force or a destructive force.’  We can do great good or great damage with what we say.

  • Choose your companions carefully
    I don’t know whether it is coincidence that it is in this context that the writer says, ‘He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favour from the Lord’ (v.22).  It is certainly true in my experience that Pippa’s wisdom, advice and involvement have often helped me to avoid getting into trouble in this area.  A good husband or wife can often be a peacemaker: ‘Find a good spouse, you find a good life – and even more: the favour of God!’ (v.22, MSG).

Whether we are married or not, what we need are really close friends.  The second part of this proverb reminds us that while friends come and go, ‘There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother or sister’ (v.24b).  These are the sorts of friends we need in our lives.  Ultimately, of course, Jesus is the friend who sticks closer than a brother or sister.

‘Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips’ (Psalm 141:3).  Lord, help us in all we do and say to avoid unnecessary offence and disputes.  Put a guard over our tongues today.  Forgive me for times when I have upset other people.  May my speech become a source of life to those around me.

2.  How to deal with disputes

Romans 14:1-18If only the church in the last 2,000 years had followed Paul’s instruction: ‘Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do … Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God’ (vv.1,10, MSG).

There are certain matters over which Paul was willing to fight to death – the truth of the gospel (that Christ died for us, vv.9,15).  The life, death and resurrection of Jesus (v.9) and the Lordship of Christ (v.9) are examples of non-negotiables.

However, Paul writes here that there are other things that are not nearly as important.  They are ‘disputable matters’ (v.1).  They are secondary areas.  He gives various examples such as vegetarianism or thinking of one day as more sacred than another.

No doubt we could list many other issues where Christians today are divided about secondary matters.  Some Christians abstain from alcohol.  Others do not.  Some Christians are pacifists.  Others are not.  How do we deal with disputes about secondary matters?

  • Welcome those with different views
    He writes ‘accept’ (the word means ‘welcome’) those ‘whose faith is weak’ (v.1a).  ‘Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do’ (v.1, MSG).
  • Do not be quick to judge
    ‘Don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with’ (v.1b, MSG).

He goes on, ‘Who are you to judge someone else’s servants?’ (v.4).  ‘Then let us no more criticise and blame and pass judgment on one another’ (v.13, AMP).  We must allow people to have different views from our own without judging them for it.

  • Don’t look down on others
    We ‘must not look down on’ (v.3a) those who have different views from our own.  God has welcomed them (v.3b).  So should we.
  • Do what you think is right
    On all these secondary matters ‘everybody should be fully convinced in their own minds’ (v.5).  ‘Each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience’ (v.5, MSG).  ‘If you eat meat … thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian … thank God for broccoli’ (v.6, MSG).  Just because we may agree to disagree on these matters does not make them irrelevant.  We need to be careful to do what we think is right in every situation.
  • Assume the best about other people’s motives
    ‘Those who regard one day as special, do so to the Lord.  Those who eat meat, eat to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and those who abstain, do so to the Lord and give thanks to God’ (v.6).

We should give others the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are seeking to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord (vv.7–8).

  • Be sensitive about other people’s consciences
    Paul goes on to say, ‘Make up your mind not to put any stumbling-block or obstacle in another believer’s way’ (v.13).  For example, if someone regards drinking alcohol as wrong, it would be insensitive to drink alcohol in front of them – even if we are convinced in our own mind that there is nothing wrong with drinking alcohol in moderation.  We do not want to cause them distress (v.15).
  • Help and encourage one another
    ‘So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other.  Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault’ (v.19, MSG).
  • Always act in love

‘If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love’ (v.15).  ‘So be sensitive and courteous … Don’t eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love’ (v.21, MSG).

Secondary matters are important, but not as important as what unites us all: ‘For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (v.17).  This is what really matters.  Let us not get caught up in arguments about secondary matters, which divide the church and put off those outside the church.

We need to follow the words of the medieval writer Rupertus Meldenius, ‘On the essentials,unity; on the non-essentials, freedom; in everything, love.’

Lord, help us to avoid arguments, disputes and in-fighting in our local community and in the wider church around the world.  I pray for a new unity in the church.  May we never impute bad motives to one another.  Rather, let us assume that our brothers and sisters are seeking to serve the Lord, as we are.  Help us to focus today and each day on what the kingdom of God is really about: righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

3.  How to stop fighting

1 Chronicles 9:1b-10:14‘The Philistines fought against Israel … The fighting grew fierce around Saul’ (10:1,3).  Saul was attacked by the Philistines and died as a result.  We find this account in 1 Samuel 31.  However, the writer of Chronicles adds an explanation: ‘Saul died in disobedience, disobedient to God.  He didn’t obey God’s words’ (1 Chronicles 10:13, MSG).

As we look back at the book of Samuel we can see that the real problem was that Saul became jealous of David.  David can pretty well be considered an innocent party in the matter.  He did everything he could to submit to Saul and to be on good terms with him.  Saul would have none of it.  He was out to get David.  This internal dispute weakened Saul and made him vulnerable to an attack from outside.

We see today how internal disputes among the people of God make us vulnerable to attacks from outside.  Jesus prayed that we may be one in order that the world would believe (John 17:23).

Lord, we see what terrible damage arguments, disputes and in-fighting does to the church.  Help us, as far as it depends on us, to live at peace with everyone.  May we always welcome those with different views.  Help us always to act in love.

Lord, pour out your Spirit on the church.  Unite us around the person of Jesus.  May we be one in order that the world will believe.

Pippa Adds

Proverbs 18:22

‘He who finds a wife finds what is good.’

What more is there to say?

@NickyGumbel         @PippaGumbelMissed a day? Read previous entries online · Read Nicky Gumbel’s biography
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