In today's Christian culture controversy abounds and with the ease of technology much harm can be done without enough time for proper heart preparation and prayer. I found a letter John Newton had written to a friend regarding this very issue. Here are a few excerpts. We can learn much from these men of old.
"Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.
Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments. Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress his wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify. I hope your performance will savor of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.
If we act in a wrong spirit, we shall bring little glory to God, do little good to our fellow creatures, and procure neither honor nor comfort to ourselves. If you can be content with showing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task; but I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands. Go forth, therefore, in the name and strength of the Lord of hosts, speaking the truth in love; and may he give you a witness in many hearts that you are taught of God, and favored with the unction of his Holy Spirit."
From The Works of John Newton, Letter XIX "On Controversy."
We are Christ's ambassadors and let us never forget that when we engage in controversial discussions in a public arena with others who profess Christ, we are being watched by unregenerate men and women who will judge Christ by our actions and say, "See, there is no truth in Christianity--even His followers cannot agree. Look at how they treat each other! They are no different then we are"
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." John 13:35
To read the complete letter click here