Controversy exists because God’s truth exists in a world of lies. Controversy is the plight of sinners in a fallen world, who were originally created by God to know the truth, love the truth, and proclaim the truth. We cannot escape controversy this side of heaven, nor should we seek to. As Christians, God has rescued us out of darkness and has made us able to stand in His marvelous light. He has called us to go into the darkness and shine as a light to the world, reflecting the glorious light of our Lord, Jesus Christ. And when light shines in darkness, controversy is inevitable.
If we are in Christ, the truth has set us free, and we are, thus, called to discern truth from error and truth from half-truth. Although it’s not always easy to stand for truth amid the darkness of this world, we are aided by the Holy Spirit to distinguish light from darkness as we walk in the light of His Word. The difficulty comes when we try to discern truth from error in the church of Christ. Moreover, when we believe that we have discerned truth from error in the church, how do we go about exposing the error and proclaiming the truth within the body of Christ? This is particularly challenging considering that God calls us on the one hand to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), and He calls us on the other hand to strive eagerly “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
So then, how do we contend for the one, true faith while striving for peace and unity in the church? At first glance, some might think these two commands are mutually exclusive. However, God’s call to contend for purity and God’s call to strive for peace and unity are fundamentally intertwined. If we are to understand how we should engage in controversy, we must first understand that these are not at odds with each other but, by necessity, complement each other.