Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. 2 Timothy 2:25-26
It’s not the easiest thing in the world to speak with those who oppose you. Many people in that position are likely to be forceful and strident in their tone. They want to win their argument and convince their opponent that they are absolutely wrong.
But Paul urged his young friend Timothy to be gentle in the way that he confronted his many opponents. Why was that? Because he knew the gentle approach is always the godly way. Trying to batter people with our arguments might feel good but it’s not the way of the Spirit. Paul knew that, through gentleness, the opponents might change their minds and learn the truth.
Gentleness is a difficult word to handle. It might sound weak and soft, but true gentleness is strong and determined. However, it is also gracious, kind and loving. Reading these verses reminds me of my most effective teachers. They were all very clear about what they believed, but they shared their learning with such kindness and gentleness that they taught me how to live well, too.
What impresses me here is that Paul encourages Timothy to engage with his opponents. I often fear that we keep away from people of other religions and philosophies. When was the last time you or your church asked for a meeting with people from your local mosque, Hindu temple or synagogue? It is so important for us to have conversations with people who are opposed to Christianity. But as we do so, we need to remember that our approach should always be with gentleness.
Do you regularly meet with people who oppose your Christian faith? If not how do you think this could be arranged?
Lord Jesus, help me to love those who are opposed to my Christian faith, and always to speak to them with grace and gentleness. Amen