Are You Pugnacious?

Are You Pugnacious?

Even when we are opposed, we can speak truth firmly but lovingly to others. Are you pugnacious? Christ calls us to a better way. Speak firmly as you are convinced of the truth, and be meek and gentle like our Lord.

Not many use the term pugnacious today. Looking at just the word itself, if I didn’t know any better, I’d guess it referred to possessing a tenacious love for the dog breed pug (pug + tenacious = pugnacious).

Apart from my own nonsense, pugnacious is indeed a biblical term. “Pugnacious” is the NASB’s translation of plēktēs in 1 Timothy 3:3 and Titus 1:7. Other translations use the adjective “violent” (ESV, NET Bible, NKJV, NIV) or go for a noun, “a bully” (HCSB) or “striker” (KJV). When plēktēs is taken as a noun, it refers to “a person who is pugnacious and demanding.”1 Plēktēs stems from the verb plēssō, meaning “to strike with force”2 and could refer to both verbal and physical abuse.3

Whatever the translation, it is a negative character trait that must not be true of a pastor, let alone be the title for someone so described by this trait (“a bully”). In fact, as a pastor must be an example for all (1 Pet 5:3), no one should be pugnacious, especially Christians who are called to love all people and certainly one another (John 13:34–35).

So, what should we be instead?

A character trait that comes immediately after “pugnacious” in 1 Timothy 3:3 indicates what we should be instead: gentle.

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