The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26
This passage provides some helpful guidelines for us as we go about our task of shepherding and especially as we face opposition. First, it is helpful to remind ourselves that ultimately we are the Lord’s bond-servant. Our first and highest priority is to serve Him. We express our love to him by serving his people. If the question were one of being our congregation’s servant we would balk. Their problems would drive us out of the job. But our allegiance and service is to our Lord. At times we may have to take unpopular stands and actions. At other times we will be fatigued by conflict. Through all this our focus must be up. We are his servant.
As we go handle opposition, we are not to go about in a quarrelsome manner. One of the characteristics of an elder is that he is not quarrelsome. We are not to be inclined toward heated disagreements. Some of us may be more tempted toward heated disagreements than others. Others may be tempted to avoid the conflict altogether, hoping it goes away. It never does.
Instead, we are to handle opposition three ways.
First we handle opposition by being kind. By having a sympathetic, generous response to opposition we show our control of ourselves and calm the situation.
Second, we handle opposition by being able to teach. Our only authority is the Scripture and our role as elders is to teach the Scriptures. To teach correctly we must understand what the person is saying AND we must know the Scriptures well enough to respond. Our battle is a battle for the mind and the thinking of the other person. To understand his mind, we must listen and probe.
Third, we handle opposition by being patient when wronged. We will be wronged as shepherds. We should not think shepherding will be fair or easy. Our being wronged is guarenteed. How we respond is up to us. We need to prepare our response for that situation now. We are not to lash out but to patiently bear up under the opposition that God is allowing in our lives.
But lest we lose our way by concentrating on these virtues, we must address the opposition. With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition. We combine the virtues of kindness and patience into addressing the situation. We must seek to correct the wrong thinking of the one opposes us. Though we may hope that conflict will leave by itself, it will not. We must take the offensive and address it.
Our attitude in dealing with the person is laid out in the next phrase, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. Our motive is not to be proven right, it is to correct and instruct so that God may work. Our attitude is one of hoping that God will grant them a change of mind that will lead them to the truth. We cannot accomplish that change of mind, only God can. But we must do our part by presenting the truth.
Ultimately, our desire is that they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. What we will find is that most of those who dramatically oppose us have given the devil a foothold is some other area of life. Perhaps it is bitterness or anger or rebellion. Usually, the more dramatic the opposition the more dramatic the foothold. Some will come to their senses. Others will not.
Opposition will come. When it does, let us be prepared in our hearts and in our minds.