“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil.” (2 Tim. 2:24-26)
Paul is again writing to his young apprentice Timothy, and speaking to him about how he is to behave as a leader of this new movement of Christ followers in the first century. The words are pertinent to us today as much as they were to Timothy then. This is a wise old dude, who has become self-controlled and peaceful, speaking to who could potentially be a hot-headed, passionate young man.
I realize that, potentially like every 30 year old guy, every fiber of my being desires to quarrel, argue and justify what I feel. But I know instead, especially as a leader of God’s people… the church that is… that I need to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” I am charged to have kindness and patiently endure slander, evil, shallowness, argument and hate. This is not naturally within me, so I need the help of the Holy Spirit to pull me through.
And as followers of Jesus, if people oppose what we’re saying, we need to gently speak the truth. This can’t be a phony thing, either. If we truly believe with all our heart, soul, mind and strength all that Jesus is and claimed to be, then we’ll have peace about it. We won’t want to force it on people, but will have a compassionate heart of love, a heart that breaks for others in their pain, suffering and sorrow.
God is the One that grants repentance to people. It’s mind blowing how He’s described as doing it in these verses above. It is literally through the gentleness, patience and example of a follower of Jesus that someone may consider what Jesus is saying. If we’re out in the world throwing verbal bombs at every person that disagrees with us, how can we expect that any of these will even consider the gospel? We are to lovingly, peacefully rest in truth and love… sharing the gospel when we are given opportunity. The gospel should always be shared out of love and peace, and if it can’t be shared that way it shouldn’t be shared at all. If you’re the kind of follower of Jesus that struggles with being short fused and quick tongued, then learn to be quiet and loving. Learn to listen well and be patient before you are quick to offer pad answers.
Notice how Paul also says at the end of these verses that those who are granted repentance by God will “come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil”. Isn’t it the devil’s work to entrap people? The devil’s work is definitely not to give people a fun, lavish life. His work is to destroy a person’s joy and fulfillment. He’s constantly throwing greed, addiction, distraction, laziness, arrogance and many more things in the face of the entire created order. Those who take the bait end up snared and trapped. Those of us who see the devil as some fun loving Shakespearean Falstaff, or a court jester with a joint hanging out of his mouth, have him all wrong. He’s a scheming salesperson dressed in sexy clothes. He knows every angle, and his objective is the destruction of people.
God’s objective is the fulfillment and joy of people through the death of Jesus Christ His Son. This is a joy that transcends and endures human suffering. It’s the joy we really all long for, and it’s freely offered to whomever would freely receive it.