We are dismayed when Christians cannot get along. Too often we have seen heated disagreements and even feuds among those who claim to be God’s people. We have even seen periods of worship disintegrate into shouting matches. Such do not honour the one we claim to worship and serve.
Why do Christians struggle to live in harmony with each other? Usually intense disputes happen when people want their own way. When you have two Christians insisting on what they want or things being done their way, too often this escalates into conflict. Sadly some begin looking for damaging information they can use ‘against’ the other person in an effort to discredit them. And sometimes this ‘information’ is made-up or twisted so it looks worse than it really is.
What should we do when this happens? We need to get back to basics and once again begin to show love for each other. We need to allow the heated emotions to calm down and call people back to imitating Jesus.
Although we sometimes think this is something unique to our day, a reading of scripture reminds us that this has been a problem since the beginning. Notice what Paul had to write to the Christians in Corinth.
“When any of you has a legal dispute with another, does he dare go to court before the unrighteous rather than before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you not competent to settle trivial suits? Do you not know that we will judge angels? Why not ordinary matters! So if you have ordinary lawsuits, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame! Is there no one among you wise enough to settle disputes between fellow Christians? Instead, does a Christian sue a Christian, and do this before unbelievers? The fact that you have lawsuits among yourselves demonstrates that you have already been defeated. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? But you yourselves wrong and cheat, and you do this to your brothers and sisters!” (1 Corinthians 6:1-8)
What was going on in Corinth was not good for the body of Christ or for their influence in leading others to follow Jesus. They were carrying their disputes to the extreme and even taking each other to court for a judicial decision! Can you imagine that? A disagreement between Christians and we seek non-Christians to try to settle it. How preposterous!
Look at the solution Paul gave them: find a wise Christian to settle the dispute. That is good advice! There must be people wise enough to take care of these disagreements amongst the Christian family.
But notice what else he wrote to them: allow yourself to be wronged and cheated. It is far better to suffer wrong ourselves than to escalate the problem by retaliating. Do we not realise what we are doing? We are wronging and cheating our family, our brothers and sisters!
What Paul next wrote may be connected: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived!” (1 Corinthians 6:9). We usually connect this with the following list of sins – and rightly so – but this also comes after what Paul said about Christians engaging in lawsuits against each other. These lawsuits were unrighteous. The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. This should cause us to think when we find ourselves in heated disagreements with other Christians.
Paul reminded them of who they were: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). They had been cleansed of their sin and were called to live differently than those around them.
May we learn this lesson!
Image by Gordon Johnson from pixabay.com.
Readings for next week: Mark 15-16; 1 Corinthians 1-6