Correcting His Opponents with Gentleness
2 Tim. 2:24-25 - "And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth..."
I have memories as a child of how fun it was when dad came home from work at night. We would get down on the floor to play and wrestle, with all of us trying to pin him or move him. In many ways it was like Gulliver visiting the land of the Lilliputians as my 6'2" father tangled with us. It wasn't until I grew up and tried to play with smaller children in the same way that I understood how much my father held back as he had wrestled with us. He had been simultaneously strong yet gentle.
In 2 Tim. 2:24-25 Paul told Timothy that he had a responsibility to avoid quarrels, be kind, teach, endure evil and even correct opponents, but to do so "with gentleness." This instruction is not limited to this epistle. Paul told the Galatians to have the same attitude when spiritually-minded siblings in Christ sought to restore someone caught in sin (Gal. 6:1). They were do it with "a spirit of gentleness." Peter wrote the same thing when he told believers how to give a defense of their hope to unbelievers. He said to do it, "with gentleness and respect" (1 Pet. 3:15).
This instruction to be gentle speaks to at least three different things. (1) Our Attitude - When we interact with opponents, whether they are spiritual siblings caught in sin (Gal. 6:1) or unbelievers who don't yet share our hope (1 Pet. 3:15), our attitude is to be one of gentleness. (2) Our Faith - When my father wrestled with us as children, strength was still present! However, the strength was tempered by the appropriate amount of gentleness. Similarly, being gentle with opponents does not imply weakness, or mediocrity. What gentleness does imply is a love for the one you are reasoning with, along with faith in God as you allow his word to work in the heart of the listener ("God may perhaps grant them repentance"). (3) Our Goal - Our goal in teaching and correcting is to let God's word win our opponents over to a deeper devotion to Christ, not for us to win an intellectual or theological debate. Their conviction will be accomplished through God working through his Spirit-given word, not through any strong-arm tactic you may come up with.
As we seek to teach and correct others, may we do so with the appropriate amount of strength and gentleness! And as others teach and correct us, may we be grateful for the role they have played, and respond to God with a humble and sincere heart!