Arguing and disagreements are an inevitable part of human relationships. As Christians, we are called to love one another, be kind, compassionate, and build each other up in the faith. Yet we still have differences of opinions that can lead to arguments and conflicts. So is arguing itself a sin according to the Bible? Let’s explore what Scripture says.
- Arguing out of pride, selfishness or anger is sinful according to the Bible. We are called to resolve conflicts peacefully and lovingly.
- Christians should argue and debate with humility, patience and grace. The goal should be unity and growth, not winning arguments.
- Some arguments are necessary to contend for true doctrine and godliness. But they should be done respectfully and carefully.
- Scripture encourages us to listen, be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger when dealing with disagreements.
- Jesus should be our model in handling arguments. He perfectly balanced grace and truth when responding to critics and opponents.
What Does the Bible Say About Arguing?
The Bible has a lot to say about arguments, disagreements and handling conflicts among believers. Here are some key principles that emerge from Scripture:
Arguing from Wrong Motives is Sinful
The Bible condemns arguments and disputes that arise from prideful, selfish or angry motives. For example:
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight” (James 4:1-2 NKJV).
“Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11 NKJV).
“Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins” (Proverbs 10:12 NKJV).
As Christians, we are called to be humble, gentle, patient and peaceful (Ephesians 4:2, Philippians 2:3, James 3:17). Arguing from a place of pride, arrogance, selfishness, or anger reveals a heart issue that needs to be dealt with through repentance and renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2).
Peaceful Reconciliation Should be the Goal
The Bible encourages believers to resolve arguments and conflicts in a peaceful and loving manner. For example:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15 NKJV).
“Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9 NKJV).
As Christians, we should aim for restoration of relationship, with reconciliation as the goal (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). We are called to forgive one another, show patience and seek unity within the Body of Christ (Colossians 3:13). Prolonged arguments and unresolved conflicts hurt our witness and hinder our relationships.
Argue and Debate Issues With Wisdom and Grace
While some arguments are sinful, the Bible also shows there is a place for arguing and debating issues in a wise and gracious manner. For example:
“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (Proverbs 18:15 ESV).
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 ESV).
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6 ESV).
As Christians we should grow in discernment and understanding of biblical truth. This requires discussing, debating and reasoning over theological and doctrinal issues at times. The goal is to ultimately arrive at greater unity and alignment with Scripture. These discussions need to be had with humility, patience, persistence and grace.
Contending for Truth With Wisdom
In some cases, arguments are necessary to contend for true doctrine and godliness. For example:
“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 1:3 NIV).
“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you”” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13 NIV).
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil” (2 Timothy 2:24 ESV).
Followers of Jesus should stand up against false teaching and confront public sin within the church. But we must do this in a non-quarrelsome way, with patience and grace. We contend and argue with the goal of restoration and protecting the flock from deception and sin.
How Did Jesus Handle Arguments and Disagreements?
Ultimately, Jesus Christ is our model for how to deal with arguments and disagreements in a God-honoring way. What do we see in how Jesus responded to critics, opponents and those who argued with Him? Several patterns emerge:
He Listened Before Responding
Jesus was quick to listen and slow to speak when engaging critics. For example with Nicodemus (John 3:1-21) and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-26). He patiently heard them out before responding with wisdom and truth.
He Asked Clarifying Questions
When the religious leaders tried to trap Jesus with arguments, He often responded with insightful questions that clarified matters and exposed flawed thinking (Matthew 21:23-27). Jesus wanted to get to the heart of issues rather than win arguments.
He Spoke Truth With Grace
Jesus never compromised on truth, but He also didn’t belittle others or respond harshly. He knew when to make a whip of cords (John 2:13-16) and when to write in the sand (John 8:1-11). Jesus perfectly balanced grace and truth.
He Called Out Pride and Hypocrisy
Despite His grace, Jesus did often confront proud religious leaders harshly as hypocrites (Matthew 23). The key was His motivation was holy zeal for God’s glory rather than unrighteous anger. There are times for forceful rebuke, but it should be rare.
He Let Go of Offenses Quickly
After heated arguments, Jesus was quick to forgive, not hold grudges, and move forward in restoring relationship (Luke 9:51-56, Luke 22:24-30). He did not dwell on offenses against Himself.
He Was Motivated by Love
In all His responses, what drove Jesus was love – love for the Father and love for people. Some arguments are necessary, but if not done in love we end up sinning in the process (1 Corinthians 16:14).
By following Christ’s example in how He argued and responded to critics, we can avoid sinful arguments and have disagreements in a way that honors God and furthers His kingdom purposes.
Bible Verses on Arguing the Right Way
Based on all we have explored so far, here are some key Bible verses about arguing and disagreeing in a wise, gracious and godly manner:
- “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19 NIV)
- “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV)
- “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3 ESV)
- “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13 NIV)
- “Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14 NIV)
- “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19 NIV)
- “Speaking the truth in love, we will grow into Him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 NIV)
Whether we are debating doctrine, confronting sin, settling disputes, or contending for the faith, we must do so with patience, grace, humility and love. This is the model Christ gave us and it allows biblical truth to be advanced while avoiding unnecessary quarrels and offenses.
Practical Tips for Avoiding Sinful Arguing
Based on the biblical principles we have looked at, here are some practical tips to help us avoid sinful arguing and have God-honoring disagreements:
- Pray before engaging in difficult conversations and ask God for wisdom.
- Make the goal mutual understanding and edification, not winning arguments.
- Listen patiently and seek to truly understand the other perspective. Ask clarifying questions.
- Avoid insults, shouting and harsh language directed at the person.
- Acknowledge truths and valid points the other person raises. Don’t dismiss everything.
- Look for common ground and solutions you can agree on together.
- If things get heated, call a time-out and come back to continue later.
- Focus the debate on principles, ideas and behavior rather than questioning motives and character.
- Afterward, seek reconciliation and restoration of the relationship where needed. Offer forgiveness quickly.
- Move forward leaving judgments to God and not holding grudges over the argument.
Conclusion – Argue With Truth and Grace
In conclusion, arguing is not inherently sinful according to the Bible. As fallen human beings, arguments and disagreements will occur. However, we must strive to handle them with humility, patience, wisdom and grace. Motives matter greatly – we must argue out of love for God and others, not selfish ambition. The goal should always be unity and reconciliation in Christ. Jesus is our model of balancing grace and truth when facing critics or theological disputes. By keeping Him at the center, we can have God-honoring arguments that strengthen the Body rather than tear it down through dissension. The Lord is gracious and working in each of us, so we must graciously work to understand each other through reasoned discussion. As Proverbs 27:17 (NKJV) says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”