Every Christian is called to contend, in various ways, in the various roles to which God has called him or her. This requires us to take what is often the more difficult path, doing what doesn’t come quite so naturally. When we contend—whether inwardly or outwardly—we act in faith and hope, trusting that as we obey God and cooperate with him, truth may prevail over error, obedience over disobedience, and godliness over sin. Contending takes the narrow way; it is not a path to travel alone. This, practically speaking, is why God gives us community. We gather in our local churches to praise the Lord Jesus corporately and to work out our faith practically, with fear and trembling to the glory of God (cf. Phil. 2:12). He does not leave us to our own devices to figure out how to live faithfully. He gives us pastors and leaders to help guide us, and fellow congregation members to walk alongside us on this journey of obedience to Christ and his Word. It’s in this context that we contend for the faith—first (and continually) inwardly, and then (as necessary) outwardly.
To contend with others—to contend outwardly—is to speak the truth in love. This is one of the greatest acts of mercy we can perform, greater even than charity, for it holds out the hope of eternal blessing. To contend in this way is to humbly and confidently confront error and folly and call the wayward to the truth of the gospel. It is to “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 20-23).