Lucia's Blog: RESOLVING CONFLICTS IN CHRIST
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

RESOLVING CONFLICTS IN CHRIST

" I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers."
1 Corinthians 1:10-11



My heart is broken over beloved brethren stumbling into oblivion because of conflicts over personal matters and matters of judgment. Such matters ought not to destroy our love one for another, nor should it quench the zeal of our faith. Churches are broken up and splintered. Sometimes they do not survive.  The Lord is, of course, infinitely wiser than we are. He knows us so well. If we would just be true and faithful to Him and His counsel, we would find joy in "the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace." Let us take a look at God's point of view.

We, as soldiers of Christ, are on the same team, facing an enemy that is set for our defeat.  It is essential that we remind ourselves of our spiritual war and that in this war or fight, we must, as Christians, be allies and not enemies.  We must remember Jesus’ words to us, 
"Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand"  (Matt. 12:25).  

Can't we see this application when it comes to our differences?  Like soldiers on the battlefield of our souls, we cannot afford to be distracted by ongoing disputes.  Such distractions will put us at risk.  We must remember that our enemy is Satan and not our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Don't ever forget that!

It is my fervent prayer that this lesson may prosper you and me by letting the Word of God change us in the way we handle conflict among ourselves.  May the Lord help us to be peacemakers rather than troublemakers.  May He help us to become gentle in heart rather than abrasive. May we always remember that the world is watching us and that we must resolve our conflicts so that the Gospel might not be hindered.



I.   WHERE DO CONFLICTS ORIGINATE?

It is unavoidable: conflicts will happen.  Take, for instance, Eudoia and Syntyche, who were faithful followers of Christ.  Paul speaks highly of them as those who labored with him in the Gospel.  They contended at his side.  And although these two sisters were faithful in Christ, they still had some old ways about them.  Their personalities clashed.  They still let their feelings hurt and provoke each other.
"I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life."  (Philippians 4:2-3)

Aren't we all guilty at times of being easily irritated and getting our feelings hurt?  The truth is that even among Christians, there will be times when some are wrong and need to be addressed. Often, this leads to hard feelings, “rubbing each other the wrong way.”  But Christians must learn to resolve their conflicts and differences without parading their dirty laundry before a watching world.  We must learn to resolve our differences or disputes in a Christ-like and godly manner.
"Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:13-18).

In James 3:13-18, we learn that earthly wisdom is self-seeking and lacking in meekness.  On the other hand, heavenly wisdom shows kindness toward others and good works.  In chapter 4, we see the consequences when one is led by earthly wisdom.  This chapter starts out by saying, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?"  In this Scripture, James is talking about strife and quarreling as well as the origin or source of verbal conflicts and arguments among us.  Notice how he answers this question with another question.
"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?" (James 4:1-2)

You see, bickering and quarreling originate in our own physical desire for pleasure, that is, getting and having things our own way!  The truth is that selfishness is the cause or source of all conflicts.  Although the word "selfishness" is not in this verse, the concept definitely is.  When someone desires to have something, they will try to get it at any cost, and thus conflict is unavoidable.  There will be conflict unless everyone surrenders to that person's desires.  Indeed, this is a powerful truth!

  • Those Who Divide Brethren:
God has not been silent on this matter.  God has repeatedly warned His children about sowing discord, strife, quarrels, hatred and contention among brethren (Prov. 16:28; 6:12, 14; 6:16,19; 10:12; 26:26; 20:3; 13:10; 17:14, 19; 26:21; 28:25).  Our godless culture loves to manufacture and provoke endless controversy, argument, and divisive issues.  Men take pleasure in starting strife and stirring the pot.  Even when we teach the Gospel in all gentleness (2 Tim. 2:24) and love (Eph. 4:15), it is still received with overwhelming disagreement and vituperation.  Sadly, there is division instead of love and unity among brethren.  Instead of fighting and devouring one another with divisive quarrelswhy not work out our differences for the furthering of the Gospel and for the salvation of the souls of so many that are traveling the path of eternal tragedy?!

Jesus condemned the Pharisees for neglecting the weightier matters of the Law:  justice, mercy, righteousness, and faithfulness.  They focused on minor and trivial matters (Matt. 23:23).  We must be the salt of the earth and help build up God's kingdom of righteousness through evangelism, edification, and benevolence for the saints.  We must pray to God for wisdom to be builders and not brawlers (John 6:27“labor for the food that endures to eternal life”).

Division in the Lord's church is a terrible crime.  Those who are guilty of sowing discord, conflict, controversy, and division will be abhorred and rejected by God (Prov. 6:16-19).  God has always wanted His children to get along and be united (Psalm 133:1; John 17:21; 1 Cor. 1:10).  God is not the author of confusion and division (1 Cor. 14:33).  Division results when men cease to walk in the Light and choose to walk in darkness (1 John 1:7).  Disrespect for all divine authority causes division among men (Matt. 28:18-20; Eph. 5:24).  Envy, jealousy, greed, and carnality cause division (Acts 20:30; 2 Peter 2:3; 1 Cor. 3:3-4).

Many souls are lost when there is division.  Since many refuse to walk in the Light, they cannot have communion with Christ.  Therefore, His blood cannot cleanse them from their sins (1 John 1:7).  All division is of the flesh and results in death, but the mind that is set on the Spirit is life and peace (1 Cor. 3:3; Rom. 8:6).  Indeed, the church is crippled when there is division and strife.  Those who belittle all divine authority cause division because they lack love for God, His Word, and His church.  

Division, strife, and conflict have always been around.  The church which the Lord purchased with His own blood has not been immune to this.  Just look around and notice the religious confusion today.  Although Jesus established only one church (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 4:4; 1:22-23), man has created many today and all this because of division, strife, and disagreement.  This religious confusion has brought such change since the earliest times when the church of Christ was built. It continues until today when we have hundreds of churches that started as the product of selfishness.  How?  Through men and women wanting to do and have things their own way without respecting the authority and Lordship of Christ.

So, when they didn't get things done their way, they chose to leave their original group to start a new one.  Does that sound familiar?  We still have this problem today!  Everyone seems to be drifting like sheep every time someone disagrees with them or every time that they don't like the way things are done in the church.  Often these have conflicts with others over personal matters, and instead of solving them the way Jesus demands, they leave and start a new group.  We forget that since the beginning of the church, there has always been only one church whose followers were merely Christians, striving to do the will of their Father.  Jesus prayed for unity among all Christians (John 17:20-21).

The apostle Paul also prayed and preached that there be no divisions, but that all Christians should be of the same mind and the same judgment in Christ (1 Cor. 1:10).  Unfortunately, nothing has changed, and there are still divisions among the followers of Christ.  And why?  Because men refuse to firmly follow Jesus and His apostles' teachings.  Little by little, men begin thwarting God's plan for the church and start bringing in new ideas and changes that God did not authorize.  That's exactly where all religious error begins.  Man rejects what God has authorized in the New Testament and chooses to please himself in whatever form of religion, doing whatever he wants to do in worship.  As a result, conflicts arise, division results, and thus many of today's denominations were born and continue to emerge. 

Man's selfishness and desires to please himself have been the cause of today's religious confusion and the formation of many churches instead of one true church.  And though we all have the same Bible and Gospel that can be understood clearly, there is a lot of chaos and confusion.  God is not a God of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33).  God has declared to us all His counsel about how to be saved, how to walk the right way, do things the right way in general, and worship.  But men have not been fully satisfied with God's Word, plan of salvation, and worship.  They reject God's will.  So, we have hundreds of churches instead of one.

Indeed, there can never be any unity whatsoever unless all men are willing to abandon their own selfish desires, wrong and sinful practices and start doing and obeying the Lord Christ and submit to His rule.  Men must learn to be content to preach and put into practice the teachings of Jesus and His apostles.

We must continue to fight tooth and claw and continue to preach and teach the sound and pure doctrine, the Gospel of Christ.  We must keep preaching and teaching what the New Testament authorizes.  The Lord's church has suffered tremendously because of the many conflicts and selfish desires of stubborn men (in many cases, one or two men).  This ought not to be!  We must learn to submit to one another with love in matters of indifference.  You can rest assured this will avoid all strife and unnecessary conflict!
  1. We must learn to get along and work out our differences in the spirit of love!  God demands that we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light to have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7). 
  2. That we agree with one another and have the same mind and judgment (1 Cor. 1:10).  
  3. Finally, that we speak the same thing as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11).  

Therefore, we must lay aside all prejudicesstop behaving like children (1 Cor. 14:20; Eph. 4:13) and strive to show tolerance, humility, and patience for one another in love; being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  (Eph. 4:1-6)

  • Conflicts Are Costly:
We have already seen the devastating consequences of conflict and disagreements among Christians and the refusal to submit to one another in the fear of the Lord.  Somehow, many followers of Christ believe that since we're all Christians, follow the Word of God and obey the command to love one another, there will be no conflicts among us.  It is pure idealism and is not realistic.  We have already read the letter to the Philippians in chapter 4that the church was made up of people from a variety of backgrounds.  Lydia was a businesswoman from Asia, with a Jewish background.  We also read of two women in that church that they had conflicts and differences.  As one reads what Paul is writing in this letter, he will immediately notice that Christians must learn to get along with one another.  We must do it, not only to be at peace with each other but for the sake of the Gospel.  Christians must learn to resolve and work out all differences and conflicts among themselves, since refusing to do so will be costly to the welfare of the church and their souls.  Conflict will indeed harm the Lord's work in each individual church.  Take heed!

When Christians fight and quarrel with each other, many terrible things happen as a consequence.  Consider them.
  1. The Lord's reputation is harmed.
  2. The Lord's work (the work of each church to further the Gospel) is hampered.
  3. The body of Christ is hindered and thus is handicapped.
  4. All peace (personal) is disturbed.
  5. Conflict takes away love and moves us further from the heart of God.

In the letter to the Corinthians Paul rebuked the brethren saying,
"Does anyone of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? 4 So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, 6 but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren."  (1 Cor. 6:1-8)

Evidently, Paul is acknowledging that there will be disputes among brethren.  However, he commands all Christians to resolve their conflicts without having to reveal each other's dirty laundry before a watching world.  Brethren, we must be lights that shine amid so much darkness.  We must learn to work out each other's conflicts, thus seeking peace with one another.  If that doesn't work, then we must try to find an arbitrator, peacemaker in the church to help us resolve our differences in a godly manner.  When we make our conflict public, we're shaming our Lord and bringing reproach to His church (the one He purchased with His own blood).  He demands that we seek peace for His sake and the Gospel as well as our own.


II.   RESOLVING CONFLICTS AMONG BRETHREN: 

In the early days of the Lord's church in Jerusalem, the church grew in number (believers), and the apostles continued preaching and teaching the Gospel of Jesus in the temple and from house to house daily.  The church multiplied because those who heard the Gospel Message believed that Jesus was the Son of God who was sent from heaven and whom they had crucified.  As we read the Book of Acts (especially chapter 6), we notice that the Jerusalem church obviously had conflicts.  As more and more people were added to the church, problems (growing pains) began to arise.  The Bible did not keep their failures hidden but gave us details about their failures.

You see, the Jewish widows with a Hellenistic background, who spoke Greek, were being neglected in their daily distribution.  So, guess what happened?  They complained that their widows were being discriminated against, while the Hebrew speaking widows were given preference in the daily ministry.  It is undeniable that even the apostles were affected by church conflicts, even though they were inspired by God and who spoke for Him.  And no matter how hard we try to keep peace and harmony in the church, strife will come.

Often, disagreements arise over matters of opinion rather than doctrine.  So, how can one tell the difference between the two and treat others with respect and dignity?  To answer this question, we must examine Romans 14 because it is our solid foundation Romans 14 is one of those chapters in the Bible that are often misunderstood and misapplied.  This chapter is the continuation of Paul's discussion of righteous and practical living for all Christians.  The primary focus of Romans 14 is the attitude that brethren must have toward one another when conflicts arise because of opinions or matters of indifference.  Sooner or later, there will be differences of opinion on various issues among Christians.  You see, differences and divisions were not new in the first century and are not new today for us.

Our goal must be that of behaving in such a way as to please God and bring glory and honor to His name.  All Christians must learn and understand how to act or behave in such circumstances.  To do that, we must develop the proper attitude and mindset toward the Word of God and other Christians.  Each Christian must learn to distinguish between matters of indifference and matters of doctrine.  He must determine the proper attitude toward others.

God thought it to be extremely important for all Christians to be aware that disagreements will arise on many various issues.  The inability to get along with others can undoubtedly cause broken homes, broken friendships, and strife. It has torn many churches apart and has set many brethren against each other.  Most of these conflicts often arise because of personal differences and matters of opinion and judgment rather than principles of Truth and righteousness. Perhaps over some minor irritation or difficulty with someone.  Paul stated,
"If possible, as much as in you lieth, live peaceably with all men" (Rom. 12:18).  

Christ also declared,
"Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another"  (Mark 9:50).  

So, it is God's will that we be in harmony and at peace with one another.  It is our duty to God!  
  • Resolving Conflicts is Hard Work, But We Must Be Determined to Find a Solution:
Do you suppose it is possible to come to a solution to our conflicts?  I am completely confident it is possible to find solutions and answers amid our problems and differences.  Maybe I'm just too idealistic!   But if we're all trying to be Christlike and do our Father's will, I believe 100% that we can find a solution for every major controversy and division that might take place.  But everyone must be involved in resolving whatever conflict or disagreement we might have.  With the right attitude of heart and the fear of the Lord, anything is possible.  Christians must work at resolving conflicts so that the church can focus on the Gospel and evangelism.  However, conflict is not easy to avoid.  Many have the tendency to shrink from confrontation.  Due to many conflicts, we sometimes shrink from resolving them, and many Christians leave and find another church.

In the first century, our brethren did not have that option since there was only one church in each city.  We must learn to accept that it is hard work to commit ourselves to work out our problems before choosing to separate from one another.  Those involved in the conflict must learn to resolve them among themselves! 
  • Those Involved in Conflict Must Resolve The Conflict Among Themselves:
Remember, what Paul commanded Eudoia and Syntyche.
"I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord" (Phil. 4:2-3).  

Matthew 18:15 states,
"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."  

However, in Matthew 5:23-24, the situation is reversed.
"So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."  

In both circumstances, one must take the initiative to go to his brother.  I wonder how many relational problems among brethren would be quickly resolved if each one of them were to follow this simple rule:  to take the initiative of going to the other person to resolve the conflict or differences among them!  Many choose to gossip to others about the person that wronged them rather than going directly to that person.  It is not right to talk to others!  It is gossip and slander and makes the conflict much worse!  

Most conflicts among Christians can be grouped as follows:
  1. A personal wrong (someone sinned against us or did something to offend us).
  2.  A personal clash (someone just rubs us the wrong way).
  3. A methodology difference (someone does not agree with how we are doing something).
  4. A doctrinal difference.  
  5. Often it is a combination of the above.

Sadly, many Christians are prone to label their differences of opinions as doctrinal differences because they believe they're defending the Truth.  Often, such doctrinal differences are just a cover-up for personal problems and sin (which does not make me look so good!).  Holding sound doctrine in an insensitive way and a proud manner will result in relational conflict.  One can be doctrinally right, yet sin, by the way he sees himself as correct, believing he is better than his brother.  Others will use the Truth to put another brother down for being wrong rather than correcting him gently and building him up.  To sum it up:
  1. We must be careful not to compromise the Truth, but at the same time, be sensitive and gentle as we lead others to the Truth (2 Tim. 2:24-26).  
  2. We must learn to be patient (1 Thess. 5:14).  
  3. We must humble ourselves and be open to what God is teaching us through conflicts and learn to identify the real source of the conflict.  
  4. We must be of the same mind in the Lord, maintaining the same love, united in spirit and purpose.  
  5. However, we must not set aside God's Truth for the sake of unity.  
  6. Instead, we must have our minds geared toward brotherly love, seeking the good of others so that we can grow in the mind or Spirit of Christ, revealed to us in His Gospel (1 Cor. 2:16). 
  7. Our goal in any relational conflict is not to put our brother in his place or to win, but rather to honor Christ by growing in maturity and helping our brother to grow as well with the Truth.  

We must go to the other person with whom we have conflict, in a spirit of gentleness and humility, seeking to restore the relationship.  If the other has sinned against us, we don't have to give him a piece of our mind.  We must make sure we are in submission to the Holy Spirit, Gal. 6:1.  Our primary motive must be that of restoring one another rather than blowing each other away.  We must take away any anger and bitterness. Spend time in prayer. Be cautious about our words that we may not communicate arrogance or self-righteousness.  Remember, our manner and attitude must be gentle and not abrasive.  We must be careful not to accuse someone, exaggerating how sinful he is, and above all, try to understand the whole situation with sound and righteous judgment.  The most important thing in trying to resolve any conflict is for those involved to resolve it in a spirit of love, in total submission to God, seeking to work things out for the mutual good of their souls.  But when that fails, it may require the help of an outside party, a "peacemaker."  
  • Resolving Conflicts is Vital to The Work of The Gospel:
These two women in Philippians 4:2-3 have shared in Paul's struggle in the Gospel.  He said they worked together as a team.  Team members must work together.  We must remember the enemy (the prince of darkness) is out there wanting nothing more than to divide God's children into quarreling factions so that the lost cannot hear the good news, the Gospel that can save them.  We must remember we're on the same team striving to further the Gospel that saves the lost.  Thus we must focus on the cause of Christ, His Gospel.
  • Looking to Ourselves:
It is much easier to point out the mistakes, flaws, failures, and shortcomings of others than to look to ourselves.  To get alongwe must search our hearts and examine our lives to cultivate those qualities that make for peace.  It will be impossible to have peace with one another when we're looking to find fault, being always irritable, hypercritical, looking for the evil in others, never seeing the good in them.  We Christians are the salt of the earth.  Salt seasons.  Without salt in our food, it will be hard to do it.  And just as salt is necessary to season our food, so the spirit of Christ in us sweetens and purifies us.  It develops in us a righteous attitude that others can see in us, even when they disagree with us.  We can disagree without being disagreeable.  We can differ without being antagonistic and hateful.  We can point out others' faults and shortcomings with gentleness and love rather than aggressiveness.
  • Taking Responsibility For Our Own Behavior:
Aren't we often good at spotting the faults of others but very poor at accepting our own faults, failures, and shortcomings?  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned the people not to judge others when they cannot see their own blatant sin. They have a log in their own eyes.  Would it not be simple just to ask ourselves, "what responsibility do I have in this conflict?”

Paul urged these two sisters in Philippians 4:2-3 to work out their conflicts and differences so they might reconcile.  Both were at fault.  And it does not matter what kind of conflict we're in, we certainly may be guilty.  Why not ask yourself the following questions when you find yourself in a conflicting situation?
  1. Have I provoked this conflict because of my pride, stubbornness, and defensiveness?
  2. Have I contributed to this conflict using hurtful words, aggressive tactics, or twisting the truth of what really happened?
  3. Have I refused to give someone the benefit of the doubt and instead have concluded that I know the other person's motives?
  4. Have I hindered any reconciliation because of my bitterness, evil thoughts, or stubbornness?
  5. Am I behaving as if I had no responsibility for the conflict that exists?
  6. Am I guilty of resisting God by refusing to extend forgiveness and seek reconciliation?
  7. Am I guilty of prolonging this conflict because of my indifference?
  8. Am I waiting for the other party to make the first move and thus violate God's command to do everything to reconcile and be at peace with the other?
Then,
  1. Be honest and address your responsibility in the conflict.  
  2. Examine your heart and attitudes and make sure you're moving forward toward reconciliation. 
  3. Remove all barriers that impede you from reconciling.  
  4. Commit the matter to God in honest prayer, addressing your responsibility in the conflict.  
  5. Let it go, that you might be able to forgive and talk to the person in the conflict.  
  6. Apologize or ask forgiveness for your wrongdoing, that you might be at peace with God and men.  
  7. Extend grace where possible and be a peacemaker (Prov. 19:11; 12:16; 17:14; Col. 3:12-13). 
  8. Focus on the positive (Phil. 4:8).  
  9. Lower the temperature.  
  10. Remember, "a soft answer turns away wrath."  
  11. Calmness and gentleness lead to reconciliation.  
  12. Aggressiveness and harshness lead to more entrenched battles.  Being more assertive, more aggressive, more antagonistic is not of God but rather of Satan.  Remember that aggressiveness causes others to be defensive rather than open.  It puts us in the attack mode rather than the reconciling mode.  Words can wound the heart rather than healing it.  
  13. Refrain your words and be gentle with your words.  No one can get along with others unless he is watchful with his words.  Words are powerful!!

CONCLUSION:

In Acts 6:7, we notice that the church grew in number. She multiplied because the saints were working together in harmony to resolve conflicts among themselves.  The Word of God, the Gospel would have never spread the way it did were it not for the continuing effort of the apostles and the brethren to look out to their community to save souls.  These brethren were more concerned about spreading the Gospel and being the light to a world of darkness, than winning quarrels.  Can you grasp the intensity of this?  You should!  So why not act more like Christ and be the light of this world when problems, conflicts, and arguments arise among ourselves?

Remember, we have been given the Gospel to impact this world of darkness, and bring it to repentance that they may be saved from the wrath of God.  We must be mindful of how we treat one another when problems or conflicts arise.  Be like Christ at all times and always look for solutions and be willing to surrender your rights for the sake of harmony or unity.  Remember, we can remain sound to the doctrine of Christ without pushing our liberties on others.  May the Lord help us all to live like Jesus, our Lord, and Savior.  Let this sink deeply into your hearts!

So, to have Biblical unity, there must be doctrinal harmony and oneness of spirit, attitude, goal, and purpose.  The spirit of unity is only manifest when all members are working, sharing, and serving together in the Gospel.  All members must desire to share in the work of the church.  Likewise, the members must desire to serve one another.  Attitudes and proper conduct are vital for the church to practice unity and peace.  Many churches have been destroyed through division and strife among members because they refused to work for unity.  It is sad to see brethren who cannot even worship together any longer.  It is tragic!  Jesus prayed for unity (John 17:20-21).

In the beginning of the church in Jerusalem, the disciples were praised for having unity (Acts 5:12).  Peace and unity can be accomplished only when all Christians are the salt of the earth (Mark 9:50).  That is, each member is committed to the Truth, to work and serve one another, is patient and forbearing, and loving one another.  Love promotes peace and unity because it compels us to treat one another the way God demands.  Can there be unity when we must have our own way and pursue our own selfish interests?  There is nothing more tragic for the church than to have Christians who are selfish and self-centered.  It will destroy all unity in the church.

When a church puts into practice humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and love for the Truth, unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace can exist.  Unity does not compromise with doctrinal error, but we can compromise our personal preferences, differences, and opinions for the good of the church.  Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable (James 3:17).  We must seek unity based on Truth.  Peace and unity can exist when each member serves, works, and shares in the Lord's work.  The Lord wants Christians to work diligently, cooperating, and working with one another to please Him and to have the unity that He wants.  Patience and forbearance promote peace and unity. There is no other way to resolve conflicts and differences among us.

We must rely on God's Word as our only standard of unity, rather than human doctrines and doctrinal compromise.  We must be willing to sacrifice our personal desires and preferences to maintain unity.  We must seek peace in matters of personal conscience without forcing it on others.  The Lord has admonished us saying,
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others"  (Phil. 2:3-4).  

The keyword here is "humility." It is key to getting along with others.  When one values others, putting their needs above ours, all relationships will prosper:  our friends, family, church, and business.  We've also been warned by Christ not to "bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another"  (Gal. 5:15).  To put others first and above our own interests and needs, we must learn to develop the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5ff).  Jesus did not promote Himself but rather "emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men... Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name"  (Phil. 2:7-9).  A life of service will keep our self-worth in the right place and in a proper perspective.  Getting along with others does not mean to compromise the purity of the Truth, but it does require humble servitude (Rom. 12:3, 18).

Brotherly love is crucial to peace and unity.  It is the foundation from which other things grow.  It will manifest itself in longsuffering, kindness, sympathy, compassion, respect, courtesy, gentleness, forgiveness, hospitality, and such like.  Jesus said,
"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).  

When we stop brotherly love (Heb. 13:1), we are allowing the world to criticize and put down the Lord's church.  We allow sinners to blaspheme the Lord's church, and we will be held accountable for that.

Sadly, there are many Diotrephes in the church whose primary desire is to have the preeminence among all (3 John 9) and hinder brotherly love.  Anyone who gets in their way becomes his enemy.  They even defend themselves as having brotherly love, but we know it is not genuine love (1 Peter 1:22).  Often this so-called love for the brethren is nothing more than love for power.  It shows a lack of brotherly love.  The church in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:11-12) is described as lacking brotherly love and unity.  Their lack of unity and brotherly love led to a vast number of serious divisions within the church. No wonder chapter 13 of this same letter talks about love!  This letter was written with the sole purpose of healing the many wounds and fractures that arose from such destructive factions, divisions.   These brethren were impatient, jealous, braggadocious, arrogant, slanderers, etc.  They utterly lacked brotherly love.  They exalted themselves to a higher level than others.  Their factions left no room for brotherly love, peace, and unity.  Does this not sound familiar in the Lord's church today?  Often, when there is controversy, great swelling words are produced.

Picking up and moving on to another church, when we are at odds with others will not resolve conflicts among us.  It will not get the problem solved or fixed.  It will not please God and will bring reproach to the church.  The right thing to do is to work hard. Do some painful self-confrontation. Accept some help from an outside party to resolve conflicts and be at peace with one another.  This also applies to all conflicts or disputes with family members!  We must learn to accept, welcome, receive one another, and love each other, despite our differences over minor matters where the Bible does not give specific commands. 

We must also remember that every time there are quarrels among brethren, there are many souls affected, and God is not well pleased. We have been encouraged by the Master of loveto love one another and keep all things from getting nasty.  Remember, that discord reflects upon the Lord and His church, the church that He purchased with His own blood.  Wouldn't it be tragic if the Lord returned and found us with such disunity among ourselves?  The church cannot prosper and grow when there is division, strife, quarrels, and discord.

My fervent prayer is that we put into practice these principles of righteousness to avoid the turmoil that exists among us over matters of personal judgment.  One of the ways we shine our light to the world is by the way we handle trouble among God's people.  God can change us if we let Him.  The Gospel can make us peacemakers rather than troublemakers.  We can learn to be gentle rather than abrasive.  The world is watching us.  Therefore, we must be lights that shine in so much darkness.  We must learn to work hard at resolving our conflicts until there is nothing more we can do.

So, examine your heart and the situations that keep you churning.  Examine your heart and see if there is any bitterness, or fires of resentment and take responsibility at once.  Examine your heart to see if you are at fault in some way and guilty of making a mountain out of a molehill.  Why not start mending all broken and damaged relationships? Confess your own responsibility honestly.  Explain rather than attack.  Cool your anger.  Refrain your words.  Focus on solving the conflict.  And work together toward reconciliation rather than blame. God wants us to be one in Him, work together in harmony, and help each other.  And though you may not care about your relationships with others, God does.  Take heed!

May our Lord help us to resolve our differences and conflicts kindly without quarreling so that we may please Him.  May we love each other amid our differences.  May we edify one another rather than destroy each other.  May we walk worthy of our Lord and His Gospel with all humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and brotherly love.  May we bear with one another in love and maintain the unity of the Spirit as we have been called. May we grant the same grace that has been given to each one of us and according to the measure of Christ's gift. 

Please give this study a wider use by sharing it with someone who might benefit from it. May the Lord continue to bless you in Him.

Luci






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