Recently a small struggling church in Texas divided because of a misunderstanding between brethren. More recently, a good church in East Texas suffered a similar fate. A young and growing church in California had nearly a third of its members to leave last year because of internal strife. Many other churches are threatened with the possibility of division. Some are, for all practical purposes, already divided but still meeting together — often times in an atmosphere scarcely conducive to worshipping the Lord. Regardless of what has caused the conflict, its consequences are always hurtful.
For instance, weak Christians are often disillusioned and discouraged to the point of giving up when they witness such controversy and the conduct usually associated with it. They are encouraged to take sides without really understanding why. Such conflicts are often characterized by hard feelings and bitterness between brethren. All still claim to love each other, but their claim is often contradicted by their words, attitudes and conduct. James says plainly, "Speak not one against another, brethren" (4:11). It's amazing how many reasons bitter brethren can find to justify doing what James says not to do! Even when we feel that we're in the right (and we always do!), could we justify our violating a dozen truths in order to uphold one? Spiritual truth always suffers when defended by carnal means. Conflicts have a way of impairing our vision. In B.C. days (before conflict) we saw no evil in these brethren; now we see no good. Back then, we never impugned their motives; now we find ourselves suspicious of their every activity. We see our good friends and brethren of past years transformed into some kind of enemy. It appears that Satan has blinded the minds of some believers too (2 Cor. 4:4; 11:3).
Brethren, may God help each of us to swallow our pride and to sincerely "follow after the things which make for peace" (Rom. 14:19). God's people are to be peacemakers, not peace breakers (Matt. 5:9). That means we must aggressively seek to make things right, regardless of who made things wrong. We must have such humility as to recognize the remote possibility that we (I) may have contributed something to the misunderstanding; perhaps I may have spoken harshly or manifested a poor attitude. There is the possibility that I have not been longsuffering, kind, and considerate as a Christian should be (1 Cor. 13). Is there a chance that I have not treated my brethren as I would like to be treated? (Matt. 7:12) Have I prayed for them? And, do I really want things to be made right between us? Am I willing to cease seeking some justification for being divided and work for unity? Am I willing to even take the wrong if need be? (1 Cor. 6:7) Can I forgive? Will I?
Finally, we must ask ourselves if we have such lowliness of mind so as to count others better than self; whether we are looking to our own things or to the things of others, and whether we are truly Christ-minded? (Phil. 2:2-5) God offers the remedy for these problems. Will YOU be a doer of His word?
Dan S. Shipley
Plain Talk 19:2, April 1982