YOU COULD CUT THE TENSION with a chainsaw during our Bible study this past Sunday.
It so troubled one member of the group that he had a hard time focusing on the sermon afterward.
Have you ever been in a Bible study group when things suddenly got tense?
If not, you’re in the wrong Bible study group.
If everyone agrees with everyone on most everything, what’s to study? You already know it all.
We were talking about a pivotal verse in the Bible:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me” (John 14:6, NCV).
Christians interpret that passage in a variety of ways:
- You have to be a Christian to get into heaven, otherwise you are hell-bound.
- People of all religions will eventually realize Jesus is the way to salvation – either in this lifetime or the next.
- There are lots of roads to God through various religions. Christianity is one of those roads.
We had people in our group advocating for each of those positions.
Some folks advocated with passion.
Other folks bristle at passion and withdraw into a silent shell.
Personally, I appreciate the passion.
I find it invigorating, thought-provoking, and challenging. When someone disagrees with me passionately it gives me pause – it forces me to rethink my position and sharpen my beliefs.
The way I look at it, if I can’t defend my beliefs, then my beliefs are defenseless.
I don’t want to bet my life on defenseless beliefs.
The trick in Bible study sessions like this is to express our passion with kindness instead of anger.
It’s all too easy to get frustrated with people who don’t agree with us and to make accusations and unkind statements that we regret later. Or should regret later.
I’m not saying that happened in our Bible study discussion on Sunday; I don’t believe it did. But it certainly did get tense.
I can tell you how I know it got tense.
One of the easy-going, kind souls in our group broke the tension by saying, “How about them Chiefs?”
He was talking about the Kansas City Chiefs.
Had he been in his right mind, and not nervous, he would’ve said, “How about them Royals?”
The Kansas City Royals are actually playing some decent baseball – for the first time that I can remember since that Wal-Mart gent took over the club 20 years ago.
Clearly, it seemed to me, my friend was a tad unnerved by the discussion.
Tension is going to erupt from time to time when you have an engaging Bible study group.
When it happens, let it happen.
Just don’t get let it get out of hand.
If people start to say unkind things about one another, that would be out of hand.
In which case you might say, “How about them Democrats?”
Or whatever you think might spark a smile and break the tension long enough to allow the leader to steer the group back toward a kind discussion.
It’s perfectly acceptable to disagree with each other. Even on important issues like the one I mentioned.
Folks are living and breathing at different stages in their spiritual development. And we need to let the Holy Spirit develop them as the Holy Spirit sees fit.
It’s not our job to holy waterboard them until they say what we want to hear.
There’s one Bible verse that comes to mind when I think about how to deal with tension in Bible study sessions:
“Put on tender mercy and kindness as if they were your clothes. Don’t be proud. Be gentle and patient. Put up with each other. Forgive the things you are holding against one another. Forgive, just as the Lord forgave you,” (Colossians 3:12-13, NIRV).
With that in mind, peace be with you.