Conflict Among Believers
How Can We Avoid This?
July 15, 2010 - People commonly joke about church disputes over trivial things, like the carpet color, but conflict among believers is no laughing matter. Let’s examine some of the reasons we are driven to argue within local bodies of Christ and how to resolve or avoid conflict from a biblical perspective.
If our hearts are left untreated, feelings of envy will overtake us and often result in an outward, argumentative behavior.
By Joy Allmond
Several years ago, a church received a new pastor. A group of members decided they did not appreciate him or his style of preaching, so they decided to boycott the services, while still attending the Bible study/Sunday School classes.
After just six months, this man resigned from his position. The tension among the group of church members not only hurt the pastor and his family; it hurt the remnant of the congregation who lost a friend when he resigned.
Unfortunately, examples like this are all too common. How did we get to this point? Read what James wrote to a group of Christians:
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. – James 4:1-3
The passage says, “You lust and do not have; so you commit murder.” Why is this? We can attribute much if these lusts to human nature, but what about the messages that we get from our culture? We are taught from all avenues of media to serve ourselves and give into our carnal desires.
When James uses the phrase “commit murder,” he refers to the hate that can manifest in our hearts if our selfish desires are not kept in check. 1 John 3:15 tell us that “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” When we allow our desire for control in the church to overtake our desire to love one another, we allow hate to creep into our hearts.
Our culture does not teach us to consider others first. Unfortunately, this way of thinking seeps into the church and results in power struggles over things like who gets to decide the style of music or which program volunteers and/or church staff members have more say in how things are run.
It is crucial to know the Word of God if we are to resist these types of influences.
Insecurity does not discriminate. In some ways, it could be classified as an epidemic among God’s children. Sometimes, this insecurity takes the form of conflict among believers.
James 4:2 says, “You are envious and cannot obtain.” Envy often stems from an insecurity issue. When we are not satisfied with where we are in our earthly journey (in a worldly sense), or the lot God has given us, there is a fertile breeding ground for insecurity.
If our hearts are left untreated, feelings of envy will overtake us and often result in an outward, argumentative behavior. We are not to deny our feelings of envy; we are only to deny their authority over our lives. Be honest with God; take your feelings of jealousy toward a brother or sister in Christ and lay them before Him.
Only He can treat them.
James writes in 4:3, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.”
We might truly believe that God wants us to have the very position of power or status that we crave among our church body. When we want something badly, we can convince ourselves that it is God’s will. It is important to take inventory of your motives. Ask yourself questions such as: Why do I feel this way? How would God’s Kingdom be advanced as a result of this?
Don’t buy into the cultural message that if you believe it to be true in your heart that it must be “right.” Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that our hearts are deceitful. Ask God to reveal your motives, and ask Him to direct your prayers according to His will.
God will never answer a prayer in a way that contradicts what He tells us in the Bible. It is important to stay grounded in Scriptures so that we can know if our desires are worth fighting for.