Speaking the truth in love.
That person we've labeled as contentious may actually be attempting to teach us a thing or two. American culture has long recognized and emphasized teaching and correcting roles in formal and informal education. Today the responsibility of preparing our future generations has been entrusted to systems of early childhood, primary, elementary, secondary, and tertiary schooling, mostly public, government funded institutions. There are, of course, private schools at every level and a growing return to home-school models. Over-riding them all has been generation to generation teaching that preceded the complex design of contemporary education. The point being, our history annotates many levels of instruction---teaching, training, coaching, preparing, and correcting---in generational connections, family relationships, work hierarchies, and close friendships.
This Christian worldview that constantly counsels me provides strong biblical guidance in serving the instructional needs of our changing culture. Historically the family was the basic teaching environment. Parents were expected to teach their children the various curricula of foundational education. Early on churches and faith-based organizations accepted and implemented classroom teaching with their religious preferences being central to their instruction. Parish priests and nuns eagerly fulfilled their classroom duties. How many friends remember the nun's ruler as the primary correctional instrument? Much of this educational model was constructed on biblical guidance.
Even beyond the basic schooling, church people understood a believer's reliance on mutual accountability in teaching and correcting. It's not fashionable today, gifted and mature believers providing Scriptural guidance to those less mature. It's because so many in that mature category elevated themselves to a judgement seat over others. Even in the New Testament era this was a dangerous misappropriation of mutual accountability . And, most of us are fearful of crossing those lines. People who do over-extend their teaching roles even in church are thought to be contentious, judgmental spiritual abusers. The other side of that is that many of us, individuals to the core, don't want another human directing our lives. It is perhaps why there's so much care in the Bible about correcting and teaching others in church.
So, this role is superintended with relational boundaries. Teaching and correcting others is a sacred duty. Still, it must be delivered with Christian care and concern. Make note---
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him
back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his
soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
James 5: 19-20, ESV
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or
two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two
or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses
to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Matthew 18: 15-17, ESV
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore
him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Galatians 6: 1, ESV
If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have
nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but
warn him as a brother.
2 Thessalonians 3: 14-15, ESV
...speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head.
Ephesians 4: 15, ESV
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you
ought to answer each person.
Colossians 4: 5, ESV
Being judgemental is not our call. Instruction and correction often is. That's why I love Paul's counsel to speak the truth in love. Sometimes we need to tell another person the absolute truth. But, it should always be spoken with a loving, restoring spirit.