Fighting the Wrong Battles
In the life of every church community, disagreements and conflicts are bound to arise. From minor disputes over minor theological matters to more significant divisions that may lead to parting ways, churchgoers have historically experienced conflicts. But what is the root cause of these quarrels among the very people that Jesus called to be known for their love and unity? Let’s explore the Scriptures and find out what James had to say about this issue.
Understanding the Source of Quarrels
In the book of James, the apostle asks a crucial question that cuts to the core of the problem: “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you?” (James 4:1, NASB1995). James doesn’t beat around the bush and points to the heart of the matter. He explains that these quarrels stem from evil desires waging war within individuals. These desires lead to envy, jealousy, greed, and a willingness to do whatever it takes to obtain what one desires.
James lays it all out clearly, highlighting the reasons for in-fighting among church members:
- Evil Desires – When our selfish desires dominate our hearts, we become prone to conflicts.
- Greed and Scheming – The insatiable desire for what others have leads to plotting and scheming against them.
- Jealousy – Envy for what others possess can create animosity and strife.
- Willingness to Harm – When driven by selfish motives, some may resort to harmful actions, even causing harm to others.
- Theft – Coveting what rightfully belongs to others can lead to contentious behavior.
Seeking Unity Through Love
If we examine our hearts and motives, we find that the root of quarrels often lies in our own desires overpowering our commitment to love and unity. It is challenging to quarrel with someone who is willing to cooperate and seek harmony. Moreover, when we adopt an attitude of generosity and selflessness, conflicts tend to dissipate.
While standing up against injustice within the church is vital, many conflicts arise from personal wants and not God’s desires. These ego-driven desires weaken and sicken the church, hindering its ability to fulfill its true purpose.
The practice of communion, for instance, should not be marred by petty disputes over the choice of elements. Instead, it should remind us of Christ’s sacrifice, calling us to unity and love.
Fighting the Real Battles
Although some battles must be fought, we must discern which are truly worth engaging in. As believers, we must stand up against genuine evils, such as spiritual leaders who abuse their authority, but not quarrel over trivial matters.
To find resolution in disagreements, we should ask ourselves the following questions:
- Purpose Examination – Why am I involved in this conflict? Is it for personal gain or for the greater good?
- Outcome Reflection – What will be the result of this disagreement? Will it lead to unity or division?
- Seeking Guidance – Is there a wise and experienced person who can provide counsel to navigate this conflict?
Encouragement from Scripture
Throughout the Bible, we find verses that encourage us to pursue love, unity, and reconciliation within the body of Christ:
“Bearing with one another and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” Colossians 3:13
“Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3
“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Matthew 18:15
“So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” Romans 14:19
Application in Daily Life
Now that we understand the root cause of church conflicts and have explored what Scripture says about unity and love, let’s consider practical ways to apply these principles:
- Examine Your Heart – Regularly check your motives and desires in conflicts. Seek God’s will and align your heart with His.
- Choose Love and Forgiveness – Instead of holding grudges, be quick to forgive and bear with one another’s shortcomings.
- Embrace Humility – Pride often fuels conflicts. Choose humility and be willing to consider others’ perspectives.
- Seek Mediation – If conflicts persist, involve a wise and impartial mediator to help navigate the situation.
- Address Genuine Evils – Stand against true injustices in the church, supporting those who are mistreated or oppressed.
Church conflicts are, unfortunately, a reality due to human imperfection and selfish desires. Nevertheless, as followers of Christ, we are called to embody love and unity, seeking resolution through understanding, forgiveness, and humility. By prioritizing God’s desires over our own, we can foster a stronger, healthier, and more effective body of believers, ultimately glorifying God in all we do. So, when faced with disagreements, let us choose the path of love, knowing that one day, we will give an account of our actions on this earth.