An Age of Rage
We live in a season of rage and controversy. Every time you turn around, someone is outraged about something. From Twitter comments that spark a firestorm to Facebook rants written in all capital letters, rage seems to be in our nature. In addition, some people seem to take on a whole different persona when they are online. That friend you thought you knew surprised you when you saw their explosive comments on social media. Controversies range from racial tensions to whether what is happening in the world is all a set up for the One World Order.
While some controversies are worth fighting for, others are not. This is where the Bible comes in. When Paul wrote to Titus, one of his trainees in the ministry, he made a specific point that speaks to us today.
Titus 3:9 (NRSV)
But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
In this series of four articles, I will be exploring four things. The first is whether your controversy is worth fighting for. The second will cover six different kinds of controversies as found in Titus 3:9. The third part will ask four searching questions that help locate our priorities in the face of God’s mandate. Lastly, we will discuss the one controversy no follower of Christ can ignore.
What These Articles Are Not Seeking to Do
The goal of these brief articles will not be to tell which controversies are good, and which are bad, who is right and who is wrong, which ones you should avoid and which ones you should embrace. The purpose of these articles is to look at controversies through the lens of God’s word so that we can respond to all controversies as true followers of Christ.
What Is A “Stupid Controversy”?
From a biblical point of view, a stupid controversy is a debate that doesn’t produce fruit, build up, or bring you closer to God. These kinds of controversies are like cotton candy for the mind, they give you a sugar high but yield no nutritional value.
A stupid controversy is also a “question” that becomes all- important when it should not. An article called, “30 Of the Most Bizarre Research Paper Topics Of All Time” makes the point. Researchers from the University of California tried to determine an answer to the question, who jumps higher, the cat flea or the dog flea? Another research project in France sought to answer the question, “Do Woodpeckers Get A Headache?”[i] Yes, people research these things and spend hundreds of hours debating these questions. For some Christians, absurd controversies have become like golden calves; idols that do nothing but waste valuable time that should be redeemed for the sake of the gospel.
A stupid controversy is also a kind of knowledge that only creates pride and smugness. Some who walk in this vein look down on those who don’t have “their” revelation of what is really happening. Paul even goes further in his letter to Timothy by calling some controversies not only stupid but senseless.
2 Timothy 2:23–24 (NRSV)
23 Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.
24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient.
Stupid, Senseless, And Quarrelsome
These three words stand out in Paul’s charge to Timothy regarding disputes. They can also serve as three indicators that a controversy is not worth a fight. Is the controversy simply “dumb”? Does it have little redeeming value that might serve as a novelty, a shiny curiosity picked up for a moment only to be discarded? Does the controversy pass the, “sense” test? Does it fall within the bounds of reason, or is it so outrageous that it is almost alluring to consider? Lastly, does the controversy do nothing but cause friction among friends? In the face of divisive controversies, Paul admonished Timothy to be a patient teacher to those who rage, not one who responds in-kind. In this age of rage, we must do the same. When we engage people who do not share our worldview, we must do it in love, patience, and humility.
[i]. “30 OF THE MOST BIZARRE RESEARCH PAPER TOPICS OF ALL TIME,” https://www.online-phd-programs.org/bizarre-research-paper-topics/