Our Spiritual Soldier Series continues as we have just discussed some enemies of the Church. The alliances we form with others here on earth give us ways to fight spiritual battles together.
There’s a brotherhood and sisterhood within the Church. We have the same experiences, the same Lord, the same faith, and can combine our resources to fight the enemy and win people to Jesus through our testimonies.
But you may have found yourself fighting battles within the Church and with other Christians instead of with the enemy. Friendly fire is a real possibility when Christians do not get along.
So part of spiritual warfare becomes finding ways to not throw rocks at one another inside the Church. What are some ways Christians deal with disagreements amongst one another? Let’s dive in!
- Part ways for a time.
No Christian should want to stop having fellowship with another Christian. We have too much in common to give up on one another if we have disagreements. If we listen to the Holy Spirit and obey Jesus’ teachings we should be able to reconcile our differences.
Disagreements come from a number of areas. Personality conflicts happen more often than we care to admit. We cannot come together if we do not swallow our pride and humbly commit to finding ways to work together for the sake of Jesus’ Kingdom.
This is never an easy endeavor. Two people have wildly different approaches to solving a problem or ministering to a group of people. Some people seek attention while others attempt to gain ground by being passive aggressive. I have seen both in my ministry.
With strong personalities pride becomes the heart of the issue. Sometimes it is out of a genuine desire to see the best outcome. But each of us must face the possibility that our way is not the best way.
We need wisdom as well as humility. Wisdom is the ability to choose the God pleasing approach through prayer and the counsel of many. My goal as a pastor is to hear several godly voices on a matter and allow the Holy Spirit to give us discernment on which is the best course, or a combination of ideas.
You must be careful not to get so many voices that you cannot come to a consensus. But as long as you are listening to the Holy Spirit first, He will give you guidance to find the God pleasing course of action for the most spiritual success. It is good on the spiritual battlefield to find godly Christian counsel to help us in our battles.
Besides personality conflicts there are different philosophies, roads to arrive at our desired destination. Many of these come from different cultural approaches within the body of Christ. I have found some of these cultural differences to be beneficial to finding a better way to accomplish our goals.
But sometimes cultural differences are so strongly felt that we cannot get past them. We need to be open to listening to one another and seeking God’s wisdom and the leading of the Spirit. And once again, humility is always the best engine for our success.
When we have these strong disagreements amongst ourselves and cannot find a solution to the conflict, the Bible gives us a solution. A disagreement broke out between Paul and Barnabas concerning John Mark and they decided to part ways for a time (Acts 15:36-41).
Although Barnabas took John Mark and Paul took Silas on their next missionary journeys this did not mean they were not fulfilling God’s plan or not able to ever speak to one another again. Paul later talks about how invaluable to him John Mark had become (2 Timothy 4:11).
A short time of parting company may produce a greater harvest for God’s Kingdoms until we come together once again. But we must not part forever. Whatever issue separates us must not be one that permanently separates us.
- Confront them one-on-one.
Parting ways may not be advantageous to the situation. Throughout the body of Christ issues of doctrine, practice, and approach to evangelism and church governance have separated the body over time.
Major Christian doctrines should never separate anyone in the body of Christ. Belief in Jesus as the Son of God, the Trinity, the inerrancy of Scripture, and other major doctrines are shared by all Christians. But we have a tendency to split hairs on the minor doctrines.
Each denomination in the Christian faith has its own church governance and approach to carrying out the ministry. This is not necessarily bad. As long as we are not changing the message the methods may be beneficial to the spread of the gospel.
When it comes to personality conflicts, sin between brothers and sisters, or other conflicts it is appropriate to go through the disciplinary procedure Jesus set up (Matthew 18:15-20).
Jesus commanded that two people with a disagreement must first address it one-on-one with one another. If that does not work taking one or two mediators with you to address the issue is the next step. If wisdom does not prevail then the matter must be addressed by the whole church. This is how Jesus commands us to deal with disagreements amongst ourselves.
Christians do not always want to follow these procedures. They may want to gossip to others around them about that person and their situation. Perhaps they go directly to one of the leaders of the church. And sometimes the church finds out about the situation before it is properly addressed through these first channels. This should never be. We must follow our Lord’s lead.
- Speak to church leadership.
One of the ways we can reconcile Christian disagreements especially when we need wisdom or need to know the proper procedure to handle an issue is to go to church leadership. Talking to the pastor or the elders will help us to assess the situation.
Of course, as I just described, we should be going to the person one-on-one first. Sometimes we need to know if we are in the wrong. In such cases we can gain wisdom and insight into our situation by asking church leadership for input.
If the church leadership properly addresses our situation they will tell us to handle the matter one-on-one whether we are in the wrong or not. If we are in the wrong confession to the offended party is necessary on our part. If we are not in the wrong and we wish to address the issue we must go through a one-on-one meeting first.
God put these leaders in our lives and our churches to bring His wisdom to every situation in the Church. Spirit-led church leaders are a blessing from the Lord and a gift to the body of Christ. They do not speak on their own accord but listen to the Spirit to help guide us.
That combined with their experience and knowledge help them to help us. We must never be afraid to go to church leadership to help us with any problem we have. Loving and wise counsel gives us knowledge and wisdom to guide us to the proper conclusion.
- Love them and pray for them.
Jesus gives us the best approach when we come into conflict with one another. Our first instinct before we met Jesus was to be angry, destroy their reputation, and excommunicate them from our lives. But Jesus has shown us a better way.
He calls us to love our enemies and pray for them (Matthew 5:44). Hopefully this brother or sister in Christ has not become your enemy. But Jesus’ teaching on the subject of enemies bears a great solution for any disagreement we find ourselves involved in.
Whether you are in disagreement with an unbeliever or a believer I have found it is impossible to pray for that person with anger and malice in your heart. Praying God’s blessing, wisdom, understanding, and a godly reconciliation to your disagreement with them cannot be done with a hateful heart.
Aside from that Christians are called to love one another unconditionally as Jesus has loved each of us (1 John 4:7-8). As always, Jesus’ teaching calls us to do the things we don’t want to do. We don’t want to love our enemies. We don’t want to pray for the brother or sister who has offended us.
But we must not be so easily offended. Often times we read our own understanding into a situation when that may not be true. Our first inclination is not to examine ourselves but to accuse those who have offended us and take the “victim” approach. None of this can be found in Jesus’ teachings.
Instead, we seek reconciliation of any disagreements because Jesus reconciled us to God when we didn’t deserve it (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). He is our model in everything. We want to resume godly fellowship with one another. That should be our heart.
Loving other people means that we put our issues aside. Address the situation and pray that the Holy Spirit provides a way to reconcile. Put the other person above yourself and seek his or her good (1 Corinthians 10:24).
- Forgive them and live at peace with them.
If there is sin involved be the first to forgive them. Remind yourself that you are not perfect and you also make mistakes. Put yourself in their shoes. If you are the one who is in sin ask for forgiveness from the other brother or sister.
This entire process requires humility on our part. Whether we are the offender or the offended we must humbly approach the situation with spiritual maturity. Our greatest goal is not only resuming fellowship with one another but living at peace.
Sometimes that requires we do not continue to have constant contact with that person. The Bible only requires that we are peacemakers to the best of our ability. God’s Word commands us to live at peace with others if it is possible for us (Romans 12:18).
Confession, forgiveness, and peace are the ways of the disciple of Christ. Even when we want our own way or to let these disagreements fester we must bring peace wherever we can. I always try to leave the ball in the other person’s court, so to speak.
You don’t want disagreements to get out of control, to turn into angry discord and dissension. Division is unacceptable within the body of Christ. The hardest part for us is to come humbly to every situation and allow give and take until we come to peace.
Peace and unity must be the way of Jesus’ body. We must remember that we have more in common within the things that separate us. Maintaining unity in the body allows us to take the fight to the enemy instead of friendly fire.
Let us not give the devil an open door or opportunity to destroy our relationships with one another. May the peace and wisdom of God reign in our hearts and churches. What are some other ways we can reconcile our differences?
Now that we have talked about all of the relationships involved on the spiritual battlefield we turn to the weapons of our spiritual warfare and the tactics and strategies that bring victory and glory to Christ.