Do You Love Controversy?
It’s that time of year again: the season of love. Well, at least getting served advertisements for romantic gifts meant to communicate your love for someone. So, for the next three weeks, we will focus on the topic of love—but not necessarily chocolate, roses, and jewelry.
God has made it abundantly clear that the standard for his children is love. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)
Love is the identifier that the listening and watching world should know us by. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Yet sadly, another love has infiltrated and started to define the church of Jesus Christ: the love of controversy.
Scripture warned and rebuked believers about quarreling thousands of years before Twitter was invented, so it’s nothing new. But in today’s digital, political, and tribalistic age, the love of controversy seems to be gaining popularity and tolerance, both outside and inside the church.
Of course, it’s vital to protect theological purity and guard the flock. But we are too quick to use that excuse to conceal our love for controversy. And because of the nature of sin, what might have started with a pure motive can quickly transform into something nasty and self-righteous.
Our culture glorifies the pursuit of controversy. The thrill of that hunt propels us – that scintillating moment when you draw your word weapon, take aim, and pull the verbal trigger. Sometimes it’s the buzz of quarreling in the heat of the moment; other times, it’s the evil of lying in wait, setting a trap, and waiting to ensnare the other person.
Maybe you’re not the one speaking the words, but the love of controversy also includes the enjoyment of watching how many verbal bullets it takes before your opponent drops or retreats.
The love of controversy demeans people down to your prey, not human beings made in the holy image of God. If they’re outside of the community of faith, they cease to be a lost soul in need of rescue; they’re a target. If they’re a brother or sister in Christ, what now gives you joy is not the messy process of love but the challenge of knocking someone down.
“Charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (2 Timothy 2:14)
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)
I wish I could say that all my responses to and interactions with others were patient, loving, respectful, thoughtful, and edifying. I wish I could declare that I love unity more than controversy. I wish there was never a time when I loved being “right” at the expense of love.
But I can’t. And I’m sure you could confess the same.
We don’t so much need to be delivered from the people around us who are controversial, antagonistic, and hard to love. No, we first need to be delivered from ourselves, our controversial instincts, and the fact that vengeance is often more attractive to us than forgiveness.
May we confess that we are tempted to participate in this culture of controversy and, as we confess, let us run to the only One who can help us.
By lavish grace, deliverance is available to us every day. He alone has the power to transform the controversial thoughts, desires, motives, and choices of our hearts.
Paul David Tripp
1. How do you think your community of those closest to you would identify you? Would your spouse, children, family, and friends identify you by the fruit of the Spirit? Or would their depiction of you be far from what you want it to be?
2. How do you think the watching unsaved world identifies you? Are you known only by your job title, hobbies, skills, and socioeconomic status? Or are you known by your Spirit-filled character and because you incarnate the love of Christ?
3. If you’re honest, your answers to these first two questions will always fall short of the glory of God. None of us will ever be a grace graduate! Rather than being discouraged about never measuring up, how can you ask the Spirit for practical help to become a person of love? What needs to change in your heart?
4. What was the last argument you started? Why did you pick a fight or begin to quarrel? What was your motivation, and what were you hoping to accomplish? How did this ruin not only the hearer but also yourself?
5. When was the last time you engaged in controversy when you should have ignored it or stepped away? “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself” (Proverbs 26:4). What motivated you to get involved?
6. How can you encourage people this week with your communication? Either in person or digitally (with a phone call, text, or email), make it a priority to incarnate the love of Christ and build someone up with words.