Have you ever argued with a fool? If you’ve ever posted a comment on a political post and then felt compelled to respond to a response, you know you have. I know I have – and that is engaging with the world in a worldly manner. We aren’t to do it. “Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. 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. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.” (2 Tim. 2:23-26) One of the notes in my study Bible says: Remember to listen to people’s questions and treat them respectfully while avoiding foolish debates. If you do this, those who oppose you will be more willing to hear what you have to say and perhaps turn from their error.
I would like to highlight verse 25 “Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.” The first sentence advises us to “gently instruct those who oppose the truth” – it doesn’t say to beat them over the head with the truth. As servants for the Lord, we are to love everyone and show them love. Jesus told us “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
As believers, we need to be holy, “set apart” from the world unto the Lord. We need to be living by God’s standards, not the world’s. God isn’t calling us to be perfect, but to be distinct from the world. “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:13-16) If we truly are believers, then we recognize that our position in Christ automatically sets us apart from the world. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Back to verse 25 – notice the second sentence. “Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.“ It is clearly not up to us to change someone else’s mind. The Holy Spirit will work in people’s hearts. We are only to speak the truth, walk in truth and faith, and leave the rest to the Lord. And IF we are living in holiness by God’s grace, then our words will match our actions. And if our words match our actions, then others may believe what we say (IF the Holy Spirit is working in their hearts).
So we are to: “Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior.” (2 Tim. 2:16) because “…true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.” (1 Tim. 6:6) According to my study Bible, this last verse is the key to spiritual growth and personal fulfillment. We should honor God and center our desires on Him, and we should be content with what God is doing in our lives. And if we are content with what He is doing in our lives, perhaps we can bridle our tongues from godless chatter and speak only what will further His kingdom. And then if the Holy Spirit works in their hearts, “Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.” (2 Tim. 2:26)