Lately I have been guilty of the terrible crime of wasting my time here on Earth. It’s not something I set out to do; it’s not even something I was fully aware that I was doing. But lately I’ve gotten sucked into so many pointless arguments, especially on the Internet. Somewhere in my pride I thought, “I’m a good writer, I can use my good writing to change these people,” so I got into it with several strangers I found disparaging the faith on news sites or YouTube channels I subscribe to. And how I got into it! Whole books’ worth of text written, hours spent at this. And do you know what I found? No one can win an argument with someone who truly does not believe them. It’s just like chasing a rat through a maze. If your superior reasoning leads their falsehoods into a dead end, they will turn around and shoot down another tunnel. And when they get to the end of that, they will again do an about-face and find a new tunnel to run through. In this way, these conversations can be endless, simply re-orienting every time you start to close in. I finally had to leave some discussions and block the people involved. I seethed over their burning and baseless hate, their inaccurate statistics, their across-the-board assumptions that all Christians were evil and ignorant. It was then that it hit me: I was not having an argument with other human beings. I was having an argument with Satan. Every time I rebuked one lie, he had another one waiting, and by slowly baiting me in this fashion, he was getting me to wander further and further away from home. That’s all he was doing. It didn’t matter so much who “won” the argument (if that is even possible). It mattered that, in all the time I was “fighting” for God, I was not looking at God. I was not born again through Christ’s redeeming blood to spend time attempting to out-argue people. I was brought here to love.
I realized the depth of my error when I began looking at it in the Bible. I had not first considered Jesus’ words:
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6). Definitely, I had been combatting something that had a lot more interest in tearing me apart than it did in hearing what I had to say.
My shame grew worse as I continued reading scriptures:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:15). Had I judged these people? Had I made assumptions about them before first checking myself? Yes. Yes I had.
But the ultimate blow came from this verse, which I next saw in my scripture study:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1). How utterly humbling for a writer to read these words. I could write the prettiest words on Earth, and if they’re not soaked in the love of God’s glory, they don’t sound any better than a lot of crashing and thumping sounds.
In this same vein, the Lord recently brought to mind a memory from many years ago. I was working quietly one day when a coworker – normally a very nice man – started speaking very rudely to me. I was offended and left. Shortly thereafter, however, I saw the same coworker slumped over at a table, arguing rudely but weakly at a friend trying to get him to drink a coke. It didn’t take long for me to learn the details and put it all together in my head: He was diabetic. When his blood sugar dropped dangerously low, his personality went down with it. While normally I get easily offended and take a very long time to forgive people, it wasn’t difficult to forgive that one coworker. After all, he was sick. It wasn’t him talking, it was the illness – the drop in blood sugar. After that, I watched very carefully for any signs of rudeness from this coworker, knowing that if it happened, it was not a slight to me so much as a sign that I would need to intervene on his behalf.
When I thought over the aging memory, the Lord led me to think about something: If I could so easily forgive this man for being sick, and ignore him without internalizing his insults, why then am I so offended by the words of people whose hearts are sick? Don’t I think it might be their illness speaking for them?
God bless y’all, and have a good weekend.
Mark 2:17, John 8:43-45
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