Somewhere along the way, we’ve bought into the idea that Christians must always get along, but have you ever been in a relationship that didn’t have conflict or struggles? The Apostle Paul and Barnabas quarreled about the role of John Mark (Acts 15:36 ff.) Eudia and Syntyche had contended at Paul’s side in the cause of the gospel, and their names were written in the book of life, but they still disagreed with each other (Philippians 4:2 – 3).
What are some of the things we fight about? Often, sins like pride, envy, or jealousy cause quarrels (James 4:1 ff.) Often, fear is at the root of a conflict, and all too often, misunderstandings – failure to truly listen – cause fights.
Please understand me. There are some things worth fighting for! We can’t compromise with sin. We must stand on principles! But be careful: sometimes “doctrines” (especially when they are called “sound doctrines”) are only opinions.
How do we resolve our troubles? We can use the New Testament “Friendship Principle”:
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it, many become defiled (Hebrews 12:14 – 15).
Frankly, some people seem to relish a good fight. That’s not the way we learned in Christ. We need to “strive for peace” because sometimes peace isn’t easy, and it requires us to “strive.” We also need to examine our motives. The Hebrew writer asks, are we living holy lives? Finally, he warns us about the “root of bitterness,” which “springs up” and defiles us. Remember: caring for our hearts is the first step on the path to peace.
Here are three more tips that I had to learn the hard way:
- Learn to truly listen to what the other person is saying before reacting.
- Learn to fight fair! That will require a whole series of additional lessons but start with the Golden Rule.
- Finally, sometimes it takes a “Peacemaker” (Matthew 5:9) – someone who can stand outside the conflict and mend broken relationships. In Philippi, it took Syzygus (his name means “Yokefellow”) to bring Eudia and Syntyche together again (Philippians 4:2 – 3).
No, we don’t always get along. The world is full of evil people, and sometimes they slip into the church, but Paul concluded:
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice (Philippians 1:15 – 18).
Note: Just before I posted this article, it dawned on me, I need to make sure people understand what Paul is saying. The teachers with the evil motives were not teaching false doctrine. Paul would never rejoice about something like that. He is glad that the true message about Jesus Christ was being preached, but it must have saddened him that they were doing it for the wrong reasons.