How Do We Recognize Quarrelsome People?
For a season I came home from every deacons meeting frustrated and exhausted. I was serving as interim pastor at an international church and our deacons were functioning as elders. One of our deacons had quarreled with the previous pastor and it persisted under my leadership. I came to dread being together. Something had to change.
Eventually, we presented one of the most prominent men in our church with a letter asking him to peacefully step down. His first reaction, of course, was resistance. “God and this church made me a deacon and I’m not stepping down.” We were prepared to bring his office before the church if he refused. By God’s grace, he chose a more peaceful path.
That brings up a question: can we actually discern when a brother or sister is quarrelsome? We can. In fact, the Bible expects us to recognize quarrelsome people.
CHRISTIANS SHOULD RECOGNIZE QUARRELSOME PEOPLE
More than merely describing a debate or a disagreement itself as a quarrel, the Bible instructs the church to discern when a person is quarrelsome. Consider the qualification of elders as. An elder should not “be … quarrelsome” (1 Tim 3:3).
So Paul means you must exist in certain ways in order to serve as an elder. “Not quarrelsome” should describe your being.
Because of this, a quarreler can really be only discerned over time. One quarrelsome exchange may require forgiveness and reconciliation. Another may make you raise your eyebrows about someone serving as an elder. But a few impassioned debates does not a quarreler make.
So how can we tell? Here are a few ways quarrelsome character manifests itself.
1. Coin Flips Don’t Stop Quarrelers | Proverbs 18:18
If you were to seek to resolve a decision with a fair, impartial method, don’t expect a quarreler to accept the resolution. Should our team jersey be blue or red? That is an amoral decision that could be solved by flipping a coin. But a quarreler—somehow—will find a way to argue about your faulty decision-making methods.
2. It’s Hard to Get Out of Their Quarrel Prison | Proverbs 18:19
A quarrelsome brother regularly makes it so that there is no way out. The conversation will feel like being locked in prison with no way out. Every way you try to maneuver the conversation meets more resistance, more opposition. The picture here is of someone shaking prison bars, wishing they could get out. A quarreler finds ways to keep the conversation a quarrel.
3. Quarrelers Keep Dripping Quarrels | Proverbs 19:13
Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. That is what a quarreling wife is like. They don’t stop. They’re disagreeable by disposition, always ready and willing to oppose. They may not always be loud or out of control. But you’ll find yourself thinking, “They never stop!”
4. Quarrelers Like to be Loud | Matt 12:19, Is 42:2
Isaiah prophesied that when Christ comes, “He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.” Quarreling is rarely quiet. Quarrelers want to be heard and seen. They want to make sure other people hear their position. Jesus had a way of quietly getting out of the most heated conversations. Christ came like a lamb and remained silent even while on trial (1 Peter 2:23). Quarrelers tend to be loud.
5. Quarrelers Crave a Quarrel | 1 Timothy 6:4
Quarrelers don’t accidentally find themselves in regular disputes, some of which may be necessary to protect the fidelity of the gospel. No, they crave it. Some people sip coffee. Quarrelers guzzle quarrels. They enjoy going back and forth, debating about words and saying, “Surely you meant this when you said that.” They don’t want to get to a resolution too quickly. They love the quarrel itself. They can find a quarrel anywhere and make a quarrel out of anything. Does it discourage or belittle a brother or sister? No matter.
It reminds me of my children going nuclear over who gets to sit where at the dinner table. There is no privilege or right involved, nothing is gained or lost. They themselves, not the subject of debate, are the real source of the quarrel. They crave it.
QUARRELING PRODUCES STRIFE AND DIVISION
Following from 1 Timothy 6:4, quarreling doesn’t produce the fruit of faith, patience, and unity. It leads to division and a culture of suspicion. In Corinth the people quarreled about their favorite teacher and instead of producing love and affection for servants of God, it produced division (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). Quarreling severs the unity the church shares in Christ. People leave a quarrel divided over the quarrel rather than united around the gospel.
Like Linus in Charlie Brown, there’s a little dust storm of division and suspicion that follows them.
The Bible expects us to discern quarrelsome people. When someone persists in quarreling, they ought to be met with all the care we give for other sins and immaturities. But one thing is for sure, we don’t have the authority to merely say, “They’re just really passionate” or “that’s just how Bob is” or “that’s just what happens on social media.”
No, such behavior is quarrelsome. We should recognize it and avoid it (Titus 3:9).