by Neal Pollard
There they were in worship in Jerusalem. Your normal orthodox service, celebrating an ancient church feast, a somber procession, ornate priestly garb, kicking, punching, and the breaking and destroying of tapestries and decorations at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, occurred during the annual “Feast of The Cross” celebration.
The combatants were Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks. Every news agency known to man has given this brouhaha press coverage. Police had to be called in to intervene and arrest offenders. I point you to just three dealing with the obvious ironies of this situation.
The fight itself is ironic. They were supposed religious people fighting about a religious matter. It is ironic that their sharp disagreement came to blows. They were fighting about matters that the Bible not only never addresses, but would actually militate against. They were wrapped up in a fight that boiled down to prejudices, territorial rights, and personal prominence.
It does not matter who started this fight or even the reason behind it. People saying they serve the Prince of Peace were disturbing the peace. People at a service designed to honor the cross were bringing reproach upon the one who hung there.
While the Bible tells us we are soldiers (Ephesians 6:10ff) fighting the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12), God does not sanction any ungodly tactic in order to do what He commands us to do, whether lying, railing, manipulating others, showing favoritism, gossiping, outbursts of anger, malice, bitterness, etc (Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 4:31-32; James 2:1ff). Furthermore, our fight is with the devil (Ephesians 6:12). The poor world (and even erring brethren) have been taken captive by him to do his will (2 Timothy 2:25-26).
The cause of the fight is ironic. They were fighting over who could and could not be present for their man-made religious service. They were fighting over who could and could not be leading it. Their battle was for things not even covered by the blood of Christ.
While there are times when we have to take an unpopular stand for truth, too often our battles are over matters that have nothing to do with right and wrong, truth and error. Our fleshly tendency is to line up behind personalities and even defend tradition that has nothing to do with biblical mandates.
There are many worthy hills upon which to stand, fight, and even sacrifice-positively (getting more involved in evangelism, encouraging greater faithfulness, retrieving the fallen, building fellowship, the oneness and undenominational nature of the church) and negatively (instrumental music, women’s role, church discipline, marriage, divorce, and remarriage).
However, I’ve seen people in a death match over tragically unimportant matters. In the carnage, I have seen weak and new Christians, young people, discouraged people, and the like. These things ought never to be!
The place of the fight is ironic. It was not a house where true worship was practiced, but it was in a supposed house of worship.
Jesus warned against bringing our fights into worship or of even having an ongoing problem with a brother or sister when we come to do so (cf. Mathew. 5:23-24). Holding grudges or being alienated from our spiritually family materially impacts the cooperative, communal nature of the very worship we offer God. God can see more than the worship. He sees the hearts and lives of the worshippers.
What an embarrassment for this monk meltdown to make the news. People will wrongly associate this with Christendom. Sadly, people will lump us right in there with the rest. May we be so focused on biblical unity that we do not give anybody any ammunition to use against us?
by Neal Pollard