Having spoken about cliques in church, it’s worth considering another cause of division in the church – conflict.
I used to think church was conflict free. But that was when I was a child and barely understood any social cues…! The older I’ve got, the more I’ve realised, church is full of conflict, and conflict in itself is not a swear word.
Some conflict is really good, iron sharpens iron. Issues need to be nutted out, different positions taken and argued for so that wise decisions can be made.
Some is ‘bad’, many churches have split over conflict gone rotten, and it’s not to be taken lightly.
As usual, I can barely say anything here, whole books could be and have been written on this topic! But I have a couple of observations.
One is that sometimes conflict results in the parting of ways (see Acts 15:36ff)… At the very least, this shows there are some things worth arguing over…
However, Paul’s pleas with Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4 show that conflict can have a damaging impact in a church community, which is not to be taken lightly.
We have no idea what these two were divided about, only that Paul pleads for them to be “of the same mind in the Lord”. Interesting isn’t it that this doesn’t necessarily indicate that they can reconcile over the issue they have divided over. Throughout Philippians Paul reminds the church to rejoice in the Lord. He is clear that they have things to be sad about (Epaphroditus almost dying for eg), but that in the midst of that, they can rejoice in the Lord, in what God is doing.
This is what Paul wants Euodia and Syntyche to be united in also, the plans, actions and truths of the Lord.
Maybe their difference is irreconcilable! Big or small, it might be something they will never agree on. But for the sake of the relationships in the church, and for the sake of the intentions of God to use them and their co-workers to reveal the glory of God to the world, they need to focus on what they agree on. The Lord! The gospel of Jesus! The reality, graciousness, sovereignty, love and judgement of God!
There are plenty of Christians who make my skin crawl, for many and various reasons.
Just last week I wanted to punch a bunch of people from my church in the face (not kidding). And there was some appropriate processing I needed to do as a result.
Some of the issues my fellow Christians choose to argue about sucks the joy from my soul more effectively than a Dyson, not to mention the way the discussion is conducted. Some of these things are worth arguing over, some, in my opinion aren’t, some may lead to a parting of ways.
I think Philippians 2 means we may not be of the same mind on all issues, but I will strive to focus on the fact that I am to be unified with these brothers and sisters in the Lord, especially if that’s all we have left in common.