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The Challenge of Contending Graciously


“Contending” isn’t a pleasant activity, but it’s one vital to the health of the Church. But knowing its importance doesn’t make doing it any easier. Here are things we need to remember as we strive to contend in a Christ-exalting fashion, from my upcoming book, Contend: Defending the Faith in a World Without Reason:

Demonstrate humility: Christians can and must contend without being contentious.

Just like Jude’s audience, we have been called by, purchased by, and kept for Jesus Christ. Whatever insights we may have into Scripture are not due to oursuperior intellectual or moral attainments—they are gifts from God meant to bring him glory and honor. This is why, in all our contending, we must reject “an unhealthy craving for controversy,” and “be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”

The contentious person is simply looking for a fight, someone “who stirs up division . . . is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned,” wrote Paul. When we read thatwe are to have nothing to do with such a person, it follows that we must not be like him. Instead, we must count others as better and more important than ourselves. While this is clearly a struggle for many Christians, to contend biblically is nevertheless to illuminate where un-biblical perspectives fall short without condemning, demonizing, or pretending to be superior to those who hold such views.

Love others: Contending is not about making doctrine more important than people.

The Ephesians had been warned by Paul in Acts 20:29 that fierce wolves would arise from among their own number. Thus forewarned,the Ephesians had tested their teachers and—by contending for the faith—had succeeded in resisting the lure of false teaching, thus keeping their doctrine pure. . . . The Ephesians deeply loved the truth of the gospel and that love overflowed toward “all the saints,” giving the apostle Paul cause to rejoice.

Yet, it seems that,despite their rock-solid doctrine and their wealth of love for one another, their hearts had become cold to the things that had once burned so warm within them. . . . The Ephesians were contending, yes, but without grace and love—and to Christ that very imbalance represented a serious violation of what it means to be his followers. This should serve as a strong warning for us as we consider how we approach contending for the faith. We must not forget that there are people involved in every debate, both “those who are evil” and those who are, as Sam Storms puts it, “Christ loving Christians.”

We often see those with whom we disagree as something close to demons, when the truth is they’ve more likely just been duped. To miss this is to cause two great harms:

1) We disserve those who need a Savior.

2) We dishonor and misrepresent the Savior who has positioned and prepared us to serve.

Read chapter one free and pre-order your copy at cruciformpress.com.

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