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Prayer and Silence: Losing the Argument without Losing
Scott Lyons

God is love. He spills out his grace and mercy upon us, and yet we withhold grace even from our own brothers and sisters because they disagree with us or slander us. It is better to maintain our unity by humbling ourselves than to lose a brother while winning an argument.

Paul says, “Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? Instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your fellow believers” (1 Corinthians 6:7-8, NLT). This passage is a recapitulation of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, of charity in fellowship. Why not rather be wronged? Isn’t it better to accept injustice than to behave unjustly? Paul’s context is different from mine, but the teaching is broader than his context.

Divisions among believers offend against charity. They are disobedient to the word of Christ and the will of God. (There is a time for disagreement if someone rejects Christ, but Christ is not divided.) So when a brother disagrees with us, when he speaks unfairly about us, when he twists our words or disregards what we have said, we should not react. We should be silent. We should rather allow ourselves to be wronged. We should stay and maintain our unity. We should be willing to lose the argument because of love. Not because we are disgruntled or because we can’t win the argument. Rather, we willingly forfeit the argument because he is a brother, because she is my sister. It is what we should do. But too often we engage in endless debates that pit brother against brother, sister against sister. We want to be somebody. It’s better to be nobody. Better to decrease. Better to be silent and to pray.

Love your neighbor. Love your enemy. Pray for mercy. Be silent. Discipline requires that we die to self. In silence and prayer and love we discover self’s death, and in that death new life.

There is a time for theological discussions, a time for carrying on conversations about our differences, but only for our mutual benefit and encouragement—only for building up the Body. And only as far as it can be done in humility. We must regard the person with whom we are speaking as better than ourself (Philippians 2:3). Not necessarily righter, but better. Humility is the cornerstone of relationship and therefore always has its place. Paul says, “I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose” (1 Corinthians 1:10, NLT).

I have found that it is better for me to be silent and pray than to try to “make my point” or to win over my brother through argument. Efforts at winning most often lead to greater division and a rather hasty retreat from charity. So when someone slanders you or your beliefs, or if someone simply disagrees, do not react defensively. Be silent and pray, knowing that it is better to be wronged than to entertain the possibility of wronging your brother or sister.

“Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11, NLT).

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Menlo Park Presbyterian
Menlo Park, California

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