The holiday season is all about traditions. With Halloween past us, families are beginning to plan their traditions for the holidays. Some families plan to run a 5k on Thanksgiving Day, and others will play football. Some start decorating for Christmas in early November, and others wait until Thanksgiving is over. However, in recent years we’ve seen a new tradition emerge in our culture, one that’s undoubtedly exacerbated by social media: arguing over how we celebrate the holidays.
We see these arguments most clearly in the annual debate over whether or not Christmas music is acceptable before Thanksgiving. You’ve likely already heard people say things like, “You better not post any pictures of your Thanksgiving plate if you’re already talking about Christmas!” or “Don’t be a Grinch, and let me to listen to my Christmas music!” People also argue over when to open presents, the best color of Christmas lights, their favorite holiday movies, and whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not. Of course, these arguments are mostly for fun. Yet, what do all of these little quarrels, even if they are light-hearted and fun, tell us about our culture? Why do we enjoy quarreling so much?
It may seem silly to raise this question in the context of such light-hearted discussions. After all, I’m writing this in the wake of the 2018 midterm elections, which was the focal point of some serious quarrels. Yet, that’s what makes these small quarrels so interesting. They seem strange and unhealthy, that in the middle of such a divided culture which seems to endlessly argue, we still want to argue over small things.
Why do we enjoy quarreling so much?
What Does The Scripture Say about Quarreling?
When we turn to the Scriptures, we see that quarreling is not something to which Christians should aspire. For example, look at what the New Testament alone says about quarreling:
- “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:23)
- “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” (Titus 3:9)
- “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” (Romans 14:1)
- “Remind them of these things and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.” (2 Timothy 2:14)
- “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.” (1 Timothy 2:8)
God does not want His people to be engaged in quarreling often. Although much of what Bible says about quarreling is in the context of more serious quarrels, notice how the Bible describes some of the quarrels to avoid. We’re told to avoid “ignorant controversies,” “foolish controversies” and quarrels “over opinions.” I wonder if some of the topics we like to quarrel about, though they be light-hearted, are not “unprofitable and worthless” and do “no good, but only ruins the hearers”?
The Problem With Even Small Quarrels
What exactly do we benefit from telling our friends to turn off their Christmas music? How does it help anyone to argue about the best Christmas movies? In the scope of things, does it really matter if Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not? Sure, these squabbles can be fun, but they also reflect a continual cycle of arguing, taking sides and insisting on our own way.
Now, don’t get me wrong; not all friendly arguments are inherently or necessarily sinful (though they may be for people with argumentative tendencies). But is it healthy and helpful that we as a culture want to argue?
A Better Way
Notice what the Bible says in contrast to quarreling:
- “… speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (Titus 3:2)
- “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18)
- “Finally, brothers, rejoice.Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)
- “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” (Romans 14:19)
Instead of consistent quarreling, the Bible encourages us to live peaceably and demonstrate charity for one another. As Christians, we should reflect this peace above all, for we have peace with God. In the gospel, God put aside all of his legitimate and serious quarrels against us as Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead. How much more should we who have been reconciled to God and experience cosmic peace avoid petty quarrels?
So, in Christ, we have been reconciled to God and are able to love our neighbors with the peace of God. Thus, we should reflect upon the small quarrels we often engage in, and we should ask ourselves if these quarrels are helpful for an already contentious culture. Maybe, as we approach this holiday season, we who have been saved by Christ, can further reflect him with peaceful lives of joy rather than the clanging symbol of argumentativeness.
Ronnie Winterton is a part of the Center for Faith and Culture’s mentorship program. This year’s theme is faith and the arts.