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Mark 140 - Arguing Again

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

Mark 9:33,34

I never read a book or taken a course on this subject. I never watched a how-to video on YouTube or TikTok. I’ve never seen it as a skill or talent to be checked-off on LinkedIn. There’s never been a seminar on PBS or any other TV station during their fundraising event.

By now you’ve probably guessed. It’s about arguing.

I’m not talking about arguing in a court of law or in a debate. I’m not talking about the kind of arguing or convincing that goes on during a sale. I’m talking about a knock-down, dragged-out, all-out verbal war of words. In this kind of arguing, there are no rules. It’s a go-for-the-throat, no-holds-barred battle. Even in MMA[1] there are rules. But not here.

Arguing is not about stating your position, making a case, and then sitting quietly while your opponent gives their position. No, real arguing is a continual, going back and forth. It’s never passive. It’s the General Patton school of discussion: always moving forward. Always attacking.

I learned how to argue from my parents, some of the all-time masters of the art. Not because of their superior mental capabilities. Not because of their expansive vocabulary and command of the English language. Not because of their talent or skill.

It was their stubbornness. Their tenacity. Their refusal to give in, back down, negotiate, or to compromise. They were the epitome of focused, single-mindedness. There was no doubt as to the correctness and righteousness of their position. And they were going to defend their position to the end. To the death. Till their blood was spilt on the sidewalk.

Funny thing about their arguing, it wasn’t about political parties, legislative bills being considered, or some great national tragedy. It wasn’t even about any question of faith or religion. They argued about the really big things in life. Here is a sampling of what they really cared about. What lit their fire. The things they really wanted. The most important things in life where there was no room for compromise.

· Where to turn to get to our destination faster?

· Whether you could buy it cheaper somewhere else?

· Whether it was 75° or 78° outside?

· Was it 1:15 PM or 1:12 PM?

· Did the can of tuna fish cost 25¢ or 28¢?

But one of my favorite arguments was who was poorer growing up. My mom argued that they were so poor that they were on welfare. To which my dad artfully responded that they were so poor that they couldn’t afford to be on welfare. My parents were married for 72 years, and they never came to an agreement, a meeting of the minds, about this epic question.

That’s the kind of argument that the disciples are having. Not about anything vital. Anything of lasting value. Anything with real consequences. No, they were arguing about who was the greatest. Not who would be the greatest, but who was the greatest.

This is a worthless exercise because how do you measure greatness? It was a damaging, disruptive and destructive conversation. There was no way to conclusively decide, it was going to be a matter of opinion that was only going to lead to hurt feelings.

Remember, Jesus had just repeated in very strong terms that his death was coming like a freight train. Nothing was going to stop it. They needed to be supporting Jesus and each other. Building up their friendships and devotion to one another. But this argument had just the opposite effect.

What are the useless arguments and verbal fights that you have with those around you? Do you argue about who got the best deal for your recent purchase? Do you bring out the heavy verbal artillery when someone dares to question some political view you have? Which party or leader is right?

I’m not saying that there’s no place for arguing. God himself argues

Come now, and let us debate your case,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They shall become as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be like wool.

Isaiah 1:18 NASB

God is willing to debate, to argue the truth with us. The truth is that we are in rebellion against him. We are traitors against the God who made us. Who loves us. His diagnosis is that we are sinners.

But he doesn’t end the argument there, he provides a way to change not just the environment, but to change us. And this change isn’t by us doing anything to fix ourselves or repay him. His argument is that he does the payment. He does the forgiving. He does the restoration.

We do the accepting and responding. Now isn’t that an argument worth losing?

[1] Mixed Martial Arts

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