Fanning All Strifes
In a recent piece on the book of Philippians, I argued that Paul leaves a category of “brethren” that is doctrinally faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ but preaches with bad motives against their fellow believers. My proposition was that Paul gives us a method of dealing with such brothers and sister in Christ. Before building on these principles I’d like to restate the concluding lines of that piece:
Individuals preaching a pure gospel with false reasons, whether for selfish ambition or as part of an attack upon us, should be be disassociated with unto their shame. Not because they are enemies, but precisely because they are our brethren. We are to leave them to God in their lack of maturity as they serve Christ for it brings disunity to the church to highlight their immaturity beyond an initial rebuke.
As I stated in my other piece, it seems clear to me that Paul has in mind the individuals referenced in Philippians 2:21 who “all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” These people truly know Christ and preach Christ. But their purpose throughout is solely for the amplification of their own self interest. And in the vain ambition of their self interest they fulfill the words of Calvin on Philippians 2:4:
Ambition is a means of fanning all strifes.
These people stir up strife in the name of Christ because of personal ambition. I would argue these individuals, though correct on the primary things, are precisely the individuals that Paul warns will argue over tertiary things and beyond:
But avoid foolish debates, genealogies, quarrels, and disputes about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. - Titus 3:9
The apostle also had a manner of dealing with such people:
As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him - Titus 3:10
The application of this to dialogue on social media should be apparent. The church does no one any favors by “dunking” on one another in a non-ironic and non-humorous manner. When we allow brothers and sister in Christ to generate “foolish debates” and then highlight it with our attacks we give cause for the world to laugh at the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Instead, let us turn against the behavior of our culture which will mock mercilessly their opponents. After one or two warnings towards a believer who argues foolishly, let us be done. Block, mute, or simply ignore. But do not be deceived that God is somehow honored when believers mock each other every day online. Instead, when we perpetually desire to mock and gain social status by our mockery we must ask if Calvin’s words are not, in fact, more accurate of ourselves—ambition is a means of fanning all strifes.