By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The secret to growing in godliness is simply to remain in Christ, yielding to Him daily so that His will is lived out in our lives. Growth in holiness is an essential part of being a follower of Jesus. Even still, there are roadblocks that threaten to sidetrack us if we’re not careful.

Paul warned Titus about four such roadblocks: foolish controversies, useless debates, endless arguments, and unedifying conflicts. Each of these detriments to godliness occurs in relationship.

There is nothing wrong with controversies, debates, arguments, or conflicts. When the Gospel is at stake, each one of us should be ready to take a stand for the Word of God. But here, Paul described people who argue for the sake of arguing and obsess over minor details of the faith. Rarely do these controversies end peaceably or constructively.

When we argue about secondary matters of the faith, we take our focus off the One who matters most: Jesus Christ. People who live to fight and debate unimportant matters can be dangerous, and Paul has some strong words for how to deal with them. He says, “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them” (Titus 3:10). That’s how seriously Paul takes our responsibility to grow in godliness.

We tend to think that the best way to love someone is to endure their destructive behavior by showing that person undeserved patience. But Paul says we are to warn such a person, then warn them again, and finally, if he does not repent, break off the relationship. This may seem unloving, but Paul says these divisive people are in spiritual peril if they continue this way.

The most loving thing we can do is to make room for the Holy Spirit to do His work of conviction leading to repentance. At the same time, by removing ourselves from the conflicts and debates, we can better focus on the Lord and continue growing in godliness.

Prayer: God, show me any secondary matters that I am turning into essentials. Help me to move past these in order that I may focus on You and pursue godliness in community. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because they are unprofitable and useless” (Titus 3:9).