The “other side” is crazy. I get it. They’ve lost it. You just want to blast them. I know exactly how you feel because I feel the same way. I have the most clever, funny, and position-destroying comments on the tip of my tongue (or—in the case of social media—my fingertips). Ninety-nine out of a hundred times, though, I hold off from delivering that jab, even though the jerk deserves it.
I want to be gracious, and right now that’s a virtue in short supply.
This year has been out of control. Unfortunately, so have many people’s manners. This is a reminder to be gracious to others—especially when it’s easy not to.
I’m not saying I’m perfect—far from it. This is a reminder for myself, as well.
I appreciate the maxim “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, and in all things charity.” This is often stated in the context of in-house debates among Christians. The point is that Christians need to be unified around the essentials of their faith. For example, the deity of Christ, the Bible being the word of God, the bodily resurrection of Christ, salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and the physical return of Jesus. These, if you will, constitute mere Christianity, and Christians should unify around these core teachings.
When it comes to non-essentials, however, like the method of baptism, the details of the end times, or the debate over God’s sovereignty versus our free will, we need to give people and denominations freedom to differ. After all, there will always be times when we see things differently, and that’s okay.
That brings us to the final point in the maxim that reminds us to be gracious in all conversations. This, of course, should apply not only to debates among Christians but also to engaging anyone on any topic. No matter what you’re discussing, you should be gracious, kind, and charitable.
The Bible is full of commands for Christians to treat each other well. Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35). Paul tells us to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2). I could go on and on talking about the emphasis the Bible puts on how Christians are to regard one another.
The command to be gracious also applies to engaging someone outside the household of faith. Paul tells us, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:5–6). He also reminds us that “the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:24–25).
If you’re discussing a controversial topic with another Christian or anyone for that matter, it’s fine to offer your points, to state your reasons, and even to vigorously make your case. Always do it, though, in a charitable manner, as if you’re speaking to a fellow image-bearer of God…because you are.